I get by with a little help…

How to Help Yourself With Notes

What do you use to help you remember your lines when speaking? People use a whole raft of aids and techniques to help them get all the words out into the audience. While there are good and bad approaches to this. I only want to focus on the good ones. That way you won’t be tempted to pick up a bad technique.

Before we start, I advocate the use of notes and cues. I do not support your belief that you need the entire speech written out on A4 paper. Reading verbatim from a sheet during a speech is the most boring and painful experience an audience can endure. Write statistics down, key personalities and important nuggets of information. Do not write the rest of your speech out and then reel it off while hiding behind the papers.

Cue cards and crib cards are my favourite prompt. That is all they are after all, a small piece of paper you can hold in your palm that helps you stay on track and keeps your mind focused. Just write a simple line or word that tells you what part you are covering and it will guide you in what to say, ensuring you properly cover the subject. Additionally, you can write in pauses and breaks to ensure that you don’t race off through your prompts.

Do not write on your hand. Ever. Paper was invented several millennia ago, by the Egyptians. They didn’t see an advantage in using their body to log information. Neither should you.

If you do not wish to use crib/cue cards, perhaps logging the same information onto a piece of A4 paper and leaving it at the lectern is more your style? This way you can step out from behind the lectern, engage with your audience without that barrier and return to the lectern in order to take a moment and get the next prompt from your notes. I will always say that using A4 is the safest way to ensure you have enough room to write notes and prompts without squeezing them onto a small post-it note and then squinting to see your own writing. If you are very expressive with your hands I would suggest this system.


I have seen speakers stick their prompts onto the middle of the stage so they can simply look down and get their notes without having to look at anything. The audience will not be able to see your notes if you are on an elevated stage. But if you are delivering a presentation in your company conference room, this will make you look like a moron…

If you are a subject matter expert and have delivered the same or similar presentations before. You may not even want or need notes. Even without notes, if you bullet point or headline your speaking points on your presentation then you can elaborate on each point as you go and seamlessly speak while adding more value to your presentation with your stored knowledge and confident abilities. I prefer this method as you can really be flexible and tailor your brief to different situations. You NEED to know your topic though and have to have a depth of knowledge that others are respectful and somewhat envious of. This approach means you can field questions as they come, add or remove information if required and engage more with the audience. You can even test out new ideas or techniques and use the opportunity as a kind of live test range.

The less words you can use in order to prompt yourself, the better. The goal is to reach a standard whereby you can deliver a quality presentation regardless of content or subject. By using these supports you can alleviate mental burdens and focus on the audience. Having a short game plan in your vicinity will always give you that ability to reference your notes and keep your speaking on target.





Author: Will

Hi, I'm Will. Founder and Lead Coach at Lib-Orator, a public speaking and sales training specialist.

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