You may have been told that it’s taboo to use notes when giving a speech. I’m here to tell you that it’s not taboo – in fact, for most speakers, it’s a good idea.
Only the most accomplished speakers – like Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton – can deliver a stellar performance without notes. It’s important to remember that they have worked for years to reach their level of competency behind the lectern.
They have practiced and practiced. They have most likely worked with a speech coach. They have given hundreds, probably thousands of speeches. And they have worked with professional writers to capture just the right words to express their thoughts.
Most speakers don’t have these advantages. So don’t let anyone tell you to rely solely on your memory to give a speech. It’s not necessary and audiences don’t expect it.
Using an outline, note cards with bullet points or a full-blown written speech gives you added security that you will remember your key messages.
Think Rick Perry. If he had only had notes in that unforgettable debate weeks ago, he would have been able to rattle off the three Cabinet agencies he would have eliminated. Notes would have saved him from a damaging flub.
Think the Secretary of State, speaking on a sensitive diplomatic issue. Think the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose every utterance can have a huge impact on the stock market and the global economy. Many of their remarks are closely scripted because they can’t afford any verbal missteps.
The stakes aren’t quite so high for most speakers. But remember, you only get one chance to make a speech. So why not do the very best job you can?
Whatever form of notes you decide to use, here are a few guidelines to remember:
- Number your pages or note cards. If you drop them right before your speech, you can easily reassemble them.
- Use large print and wide margins. Make it easy to read your notes.
- Don’t staple your notes together. They are easier and less conspicuous to handle that way.
- Underline or highlight any important facts or statistics so you can spot them easily.