Presentation Speaker Notes - Getting them right

August 9, 2019

How your presentation speaker notes can be both your best friend and your worst enemy.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll read from my speaker notes.”

Is that you? Have you ever uttered that to yourself when preparing for an important presentation? How did that tactic work out for you? Not great, we’re guessing.

When in presentation mode, Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a presenters dream. While their audience can see only the slides, the person standing to deliver the talk can see a whole lot more, including what slide is next and those all-important speaker notes.

Speaker notes act like a memory aid to help you remember what to talk about while each of your slides appears. They are your digital cue cards, there to point your speech in the right direction. Or are they?

Take note

When planning your presentation, you might have asked yourself what you want in the speaker note section. We’ve seen that little text box be used for all many of things before, from hosting the speaker’s full script, to sparsely containing just one of two words. In both cases the presentation wasn’t great.

There isn’t a standard winning formula to how you should use your speaker notes, and, like many things in the world of presentations, it often depends on the speaker’s own style and confidence.

As we delved into in this article, writing a full script of your talk is often a great way of getting started. Like an actor memorising their lines, writing a script will help ensure you hit all the main points you need to cover and eliminate accidentally fumbling over subjects. Having the whole speech in your head, to recite word-for-word, will be a huge confidence boost.

The temptation, however, will be to then paste your entire script into the speaker notes of the PowerPoint presentation. As a sort of back up, right? Don’t.

Having your full script sitting there on screen below your slides will draw your eyes and you’ll find yourself reading out loud to your audience. Doing so will sever the connection between you and make you look like an under-prepared amateur - despite all your preparation.

Sum it up

Like a stand-up comedian jotting down a reminder for a joke on the back of their hand, sum up each slide's talking points with just a few words. Essentially enter into the speaker notes whatever will jog your memory. That will kick start the correct memorised segment of your speech.

This could be as simple as ‘2019 research findings’ or, as shown above, 'Client highlights'; anything that will help you get to the right bit of your script that lives up their in your brain. The size and complexity of these aid memoirs will depend on how your mind works. Some people will need more words, while others will require fewer.

Don’t chance which kind of speaker you are - work all this out during your many rehearsals.

All in the prep

We’ve written many times about the importance of rehearsing. Deciding what kind of speaker notes works best for you should be a part of that process.

If you’ve learnt your script off by heart, and are busily working on rehearsing it over and over, you might find the odd stumble points. Stumble points are sections of the talk that don’t seem to naturally flow into the next. While you recite your words, you might get stuck at such a point, or find it hard to remember what comes next.

There can be lots of reasons for stumble points in a talk. It might suggest that two sections aren’t well related to each other and you should go back to see if rearranging your sections helps. But it could just mean there is a natural break to the flow of the content, and you’re struggling to adjust.

Either way, make a note of this in your speaker notes. Help yourself get over the stumble point as smoothly as possible by including a ‘feeder line’, pointing you in the right direction. One quick glance to your notes is all you’ll need to remember the next section, and away you go.

Your way

Find what works best for you. This means that you might not find the best way to use your speaker notes on your first few presentations. After time you’ll discover the method that you’re most comfortable with.

PowerPoint’s speaker notes feature is definitely useful. Be sure to see how it can aid you the next you ‘stand and deliver’ a presentation.

If you need more help in planning that killer client presentation, get in touch with us today. From expertly designed slides, to damn-clever PowerPoint development, no one does presentations like we do.

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