Power Presentations Tip 40: Speaking Without Notes

How to speak without notes

Why would you want to speak without notes? Because you will look more confident and assured about your message. A presenter that keeps checking his notes looks like he didn't prepare or he doesn't know the material well.

Imagine how the audience feels when you read your presentation from sheets of paper, or worse, your PowerPoint slides. Arrgh!

Speaking without notes is something that you do every day. Every time you have a conversation you are speaking without notes. So you know that you can do it.

Let's look at how you can speak without notes while delivering a presentation to an audience.

Naturally, the first thing you must do is to know your topic well.

Here are three techniques that you can use to speak without notes or at least fewer notes.

1. Key Word Notes

The most common technique is to use point form notes. The key words serve to remind you of the sequence and the points that you plan to cover. The presentation is you filling in the blanks between the key words. You can do this because you know your material well and rehearsed well. The challenge is to distil key words down to one piece of paper or index card. Imagine getting a 30 minute presentation summarized in about seven key words.

2. Questions

The second technique is to prepare your presentation as a series of questions that you pose then answer. The questions could be the most common questions about your business. You've heard and answered those questions many times so you can certainly talk about them.

A variation of this technique is to pose questions to your audience. Listen to their responses then add your comments to fill in the gaps. This is also most unpredictable.

Both of these variations on using questions will make your presentation appear more like a conversation. Therefore you will look more confident and knowledgeable.

3. Props

The third technique for speaking without notes is to use props. Lay the props out on a table in the order that you plan to address them. The props could be products, tools and/or toys. The props replace your notes and add the show-and-tell flavor to your presentation.

George Torok
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Chris Witt said...


Great ideas. I frequently use (and counsel others to use) your first two suggestions. They really work.

I like your suggestion to use props, and I've seen them use do great effect. But I never seem able to come up with props that don't feel hokey. What suggestions to you have for coming up with good ones?

George Torok said...

Hokey is all in the context of how it is presented. For example I've used balloons, pipe cleaners and duct tape in presentations on creative problem solving.

A prop could be an everyday item used to symbolize a concept.

It could be something personal that allows you to share a story with the audience - eg. a special gift, a piece of clothing, a favourite toy...

When looking for props walk around your house, your garage or in your storage closet.

Visit a dollar store. Walk through a hardware store. Wander through a craft store. Check out some yard sales.