The Best Handful of Tips 92 –
Preparing Speech Notes
I have recently seen the British Prime Minister lose her speech notes in the wind. If they had been prepared correctly this wouldn’t have happened.
If you are a professional, such as a scientist, a manager or a politician you will want to be reported accurately.
Prepare your speech notes with care when making a policy statement or presenting a formal paper.
You will often need two versions. First write out your formal paper as if you are writing an article. Next write a chatty version, the way you normally speak.
For an informal talk to colleagues and staff you will probably need only brief notes with headings or key words to keep you on track so you can chat in a logical order.
The five best tips when preparing your speech notes
When preparing focus on a simple clear message
Keep in mind the fleeting nature of oral communication.
Your first and last statements are the most important. These must be presented with vigour and with good eye contact, without reading your notes.
If you want a handout for journalists, or for a version to be published in a proceedings, write your message in clear and simple English using short sentences and paragraphs.
The second version for your personal speech notes should be written the way you speak, using clumps of words and contractions (like ‘it’s’ and ‘can’t’) the way you normally talk.
Keep your sentences short.
Use personal pronouns and words with impact that arouse emotions.
Avoid words that are too technical, or ones your audience may not fully understand.
Refrain from using words that are difficult to pronounce.
Use compact notes
If you are using notes don’t arrive with a wad of paper. With large sheets it’s easy to lose your way or get blown away in the wind.
Use half- sheets of thick A4 paper and type on one side of the paper only.
If you are not using a lectern, half-sheets can be held in your hand and you can maintain better eye contact with your audience.
Staple them in order.
Select an easy-to-read type
Much will depend on your eyesight and the lighting at the venue.
Do not print your notes all in capitals – use lower case (Times Roman is good) and enlarge the print if necessary.
Avoid splitting paragraphs between pages
Leave wide margins for last minute notes, corrections or topical ad-libs.
Pause between paragraphs and changes in your message.
Mark up your copy for special emphasis
Underline and use bold print or a yellow marking pen to emphasise the key points you want people to remember.
To make a point, pause and then raise your voice. Perhaps even repeat your message a second time for emphasis.
There are times to speak slowly. There are times to get emotional and to speak fast. These should be noted on your speech notes by bold print.
If you want your speech to be remembered don’t make too many points. Ideally, make only three recommendations and make them three times. This was the recommendation given to me by a U.S. presidential speech writer.
Tell your audience what you are going to tell them, give your main message and tell them what you have told them in your summary.
Your audience will be lucky to remember 20% what they hear . But they often remember what they see. That’s why you should reinforce your message with handouts and visual aids. Try to end with a climax, not an anticlimax. Always try to end with a memorable message.
“Eighty percent of your presentation is your preparation.”
Source: “Persuasive Ways. ‘Tricks of the trade’ to get your ideas across”. First published by Moss Associates Ltd., New Zealand and in Chinese by the Shanghai People’s Publishing House, the Singapore Institute of Management, Kogan Page Ltd, U.K and in Hungarian by Bagolyvar Konyvkiado. Also published as the “Secrets of Persuasion” by Cengage Learning Asia and as an e-book and sold by Amazon.com.