How to Use Notes When Speaking In Public

“Public Speaking Tips – How to Use Notes When Speaking In Public”

Is it okay to use notes when speaking in public? Sure, as long as you don’t misuse them. The following article will show you the 5 Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to using notes in public speaking.


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Public Speaking Do’s & Don’ts – How to Use Notes When Speaking In Public
By Nancy Tierney

Public speaking experts can become public speaking snobs when it comes to the question of using notes when speaking. The super snobs will tell you to never use them, that they are sign of weakness and lack of skill, that they disconnect you from your audience, that they make you boring and dull.

But this is not necessarily true. You can use notes in such a way that allow you greater skill, confidence and effectiveness. Notes can free you up to take risks, be conversational, and have a little more spontaneous fun because you know you can always refer to your notes if you need to get back on track.

If you use notes, use them well.


Don’t read your notes!
There is nothing more boring than someone reading their speech. Don’t stick your face in your notes and read them. You should know your speech well enough that you only need to glance at your notes once in a while to prompt you to the next point, story or interaction.

Don’t fiddle with your note cards or paper.

Don’t hold your notes in your hands, fiddle with them or fling them about like a feather boa. Not only is this distracting, but it tends to distance you from your audience. You don’t want any object between you and your audience, whether it be your notes or a lectern.

Don’t apologize.

If you need to refer to your notes, don’t apologize. Don’t say, “I’m sorry, I need to look at my notes.” Why are you apologizing? You’re not doing anything wrong.

Don’t try to hide it.

Dale Carnegie states in his book, Public Speaking for Success, that if you have to use your notes, be sure your audience doesn’t see you doing it. That’s just nuts. Don’t insult your audience by pretending not to look while you’re looking. You never want to hide from your audience. It makes you appear untrustworthy.

5 DO’s:

Make your notes user-friendly

Make sure your notes are easy for you to read and use. Use one sheet of paper that holds the outline of your speech with bullet points and short phrases. Just enough to remind you of what you want to say. Make the font huge so it’s easy for you to see.

Keep them in one place.

Place you notes on a table or lectern and leave them there! If you need to refer to them, walk over, glance at them, and then continue with your speech.

Know your speech.

Know your speech well enough that you could present it without notes. Your notes should only be used as a prompt, not a crutch, just in case you need a little memory jog.

Be real and deliberate.

If you’re going to look at your notes, do so confidently and deliberately. Don’t try to sneak a look or pretend it’s not happening. Walk over to those notes with confidence and take a good look.

Stay connected.

If you need to look at your notes, stop speaking, take a glance, then look up and be with your audience before you start speaking again. Never speak into your notes. It cuts off the connection between you and your audience. Take a glance and then be sure your eyes are with them before you launch into your next point.

Sometimes, just knowing you have notes available offers you enough extra security that you end up never having to use them. So, bring those notes along, use them well, and have a blast.

If you’d like more tips on how to be a confident speaker, sign up for my free monthly e-zine, Becoming Fearless here: .

You can also get the 3 Secrets to engaging your audience any time you are speaking on the Engage Your Audience CD.

Nancy Tierney teaches entrepreneurs how to speak in public with confidence, ease and their own kind of charisma. You can discover how to be completely confident any time you are expressing yourself in any way by going to: .

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2 thoughts on “How to Use Notes When Speaking In Public

  1. Jonathan Steele, Public Speaking Coach

    Great post. If I could add by extension, when giving the introduction and conclusion, it is most important not to look at your notes. Have the information so well known that it flows from your heart.

    Imagine it is being pumped from your heart and out your mouth and into the ears of the audience.

    How ever you speak, speak well.

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