Using notes

A prepared series of notes can be useful, particularly if you get off track during a presentation. Keep in mind that most people find that the notes aren't really needed once you get to the final talk. Poorly constructed notes, on the other hand, can impede a presentation. Here are some hints on preparing effective notes.

Begin by determining the underlying concept of the talk, then decide on the minimum essential material needed to support that concept. Working from an outline, write out the talk and practice it once or twice. Reorganize the material so the talk flows more evenly, rephrase your statements as needed, and use a pencil to highlight key phrases.

Run through the talk again with a pencil and paper nearby. Refer only to the key phrases to recall the talk's content. If you run into problems, jot down the problem with the pencil and paper, then continue. When finished, review your notes and comments. Rework the talk by incorporating your comments, removing unneeded words (or entire sections), and include comments or symbols to remind yourself of upcoming items (a new slide, a joke, an important item).

Run through the talk again, writing comments as you go. Transcribe the keywords, etc. onto index cards. Write out the first few sentences of your introduction only. If necessary, you can then use these sentences as a springboard to get into the rest of the talk. Otherwise, the cards should contain only the keywords and reminders you've developed for this talk.

Write across the short dimension and on only one side of each card, keeping the bottom 1/3 of the card blank. Use the blank space for later comments or references, and for numbering the cards in a final sequence. Use a subdued color of card instead of a conspicuous white card; they will be less distracting for the audience during the real talk. Practice again a few times making modifications, then punch a hole through the bottom left corner of the card and string the cards in sequence onto a clasp ring. Tape the clasp ring closed!

RETURN to the Practice page.


Jeff Radel