When to Use Notes During a Presentation

Giving a presentation is no easy feat and most people feel more comfortable about it when they have notes in front of them.  Even if they don’t use the notes the entire time, something about knowing they are there is enough to make the speaker feel more at ease.  This begs the question: Is it acceptable to use notes during a presentation?  While it is OK to use notes during a presentation…it’s how you use the notes that makes all the difference.   The key to using notes effectively is what is included in the notes and how you use them.  The following tips will help guide you through the process of using notes effectively in your presentation.

Remember that notes are not a full script.

Notes should never contain the script of your entire presentation word-for-word.  If they do, you are more likely to read directly from your notes meaning that you are not making eye contact with your audience and your attention is focused on your notes rather than the audience.  You will immediately lose any connection with the audience.   Furthermore, if you read directly from your notes you are almost certain to give audience members the impression that you are unsure of your material.

Write down your opening lines. 

While you shouldn’t write down every line of your presentation word-for-word, it is OK to do so for your opening lines.  It is best to memorize these lines and with good practice you should be able to deliver these lines without referring to your notes.  However, it can be helpful to have them written down just in case you get nervous.  Delivering a strong opening statement can build your confidence and make a good first impression on your audience.

Jot down keywords and phrases for each main point.

For each main point, write out a few keywords and phrases that you want to make sure and include.  This will help you to remember the most important points in each section and you should be able to add in the supporting material yourself. 

Write down your transitions.

Separate the sections in your notes with a space so you will know when it’s time to transition to a new section.  This will signal you when to pause and regroup your thoughts.  Also, write down what you plan to say for your transition, as this will help you to confidently move from one topic to another. 

Write down your closing line.

Write down your closing line for the same reason you wrote down your opening lines.  You want to make sure and end with a bang and leave a strong lasting impression on your audience.  Be sure to restate your message and include a call to action.

Remember that your notes are simply an outline of what you are going to say.  If you write down too much, you will become reliant on your notes.  Also, be cognizant of how long you are looking at your notes.  It should be a quick glance so you can immediately return your eye contact with the audience.  When used correctly, notes can help you remember the key points in your presentation so you can smoothly deliver a clear message to your audience.