Many speakers are tempted to prepare their presentation notes by writing down every word of their talk. This might be necessary for some, but the next step is what will make or break your presentation. If you transfer those presentation notes, with lots of text sentences onto index cards or PowerPoint slides, then you’ll probably end up reading them to your audience. And that will mean, with 100% certainty, that you will bore your audience completely.
Simply put, reading your talk destroys a good presentation. It won’t matter how much you’ve prepared the rhetorical part of your delivery (i.e. voice, gestures, body language etc.) or how well your talk is structured, or even how logically your message flows. As important as these are, they won’t overcome the damage reading will do to your talk. A simple proof is to ask yourself this question: “Do I like it when someone reads to me, or would I prefer the speaker to speak freely when I’m in the audience? The answer will be no different for your audiences when you’re the speaker.
How to prepare your notes
There are two main steps. First, you need to determine what talking points, from among many, you want to talk about. Secondly, you will need to determine in what order you will talk about them.
Example: You will give a 2-minute talk about yourself to a group (let’s assume the other participants don’t know you – or don’t know you well). To prepare, you might write down some of the things you could say about yourself:
– Where I grew up – Where I studied – Parents and Siblings – Hobbies – Family Status – Current job
– Languages spoken – Clubs I belong to – Favorite foods – Favorite music – Unusual experiences in my life
– Religion – Something unusual about me – Family origin – Sports I play – Books I love – etc.
Then, you will need to select the points about yourself that you will actually present given the time you have, and then arrange them in the order you will talk about them.
1. Where I grew up
2. Company and job
3. Family status
4. Spare-time activities
The key here is to try to write your notes using the fewest possible number of words per line. On average, this would be 2-3 words. Consider them “prompts” that you can glance at quickly – so that you can continue to speak freely without having to interrupt your flow. You can also use the NOTES function in PPT to see your notes, while the audience only sees what is meant for them.