Memorize Presentations: How to put the notes down

Sep 8, 2017Posted by: mdctraining

By Sally Bevis, Master Trainer for The Skilled Presenter™

Let’s face it: it’s tempting to take your notes up in front of an audience – everything that you want to say is right at your fingertips! But these little “crutches” are more detrimental to your presentation than you might think.

When we rely too heavily on our notes, we are at risk of reciting the entire presentation word-for-word; the delivery style can fall flat, seem bland and the audience may miss the greater message.

It’s time to put down the crutches and start walking on your own. Your presentation will thank you for it.


Holding your notes invites body language that can be distracting. Since you have something in your hands any shaking or nervous energy is immediately revealed to the audience.

These crutches act as an anchor. They can immobilize you and take away your ability to gesture or create natural movements that better connect you to the audience.

You also run the risk of distracting your audience with your notes. Something as simple as a piece of paper or cue cards can become large visual distractions – especially if you plan to move your hands.

Finally, these crutches can harm the flow of your presentation. If you fumble or lose your train of thought, your instant reaction is to quickly look down at your notes. However, far too often that “quick peek” derails your presentation; you have trouble finding the words and you suddenly become very aware that your presentation has been interrupted.

A one-second “umm” becomes a ten-second fumble to find your notes and get back on track.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. And this only adds to your stress – not diminishing it!


It’s simple: try to capture the concepts rather than the words.

Start to break up ideas into keywords or statements (we call them “talking points”). These are your base ideas that will help you remember what needs to be said.

You will sound more natural, engaging and confident and will able to maintain eye contact with your audience. Remember: your audience does not know exactly what you are going to say and in what order.

Make things simple to remember. Divide your ideas into more manageable groupings. The Rule of Three will help you here. Three main ideas are easier for both you and your audience to remember.

And hey, we’re all human. If you have to read something because it is important to get the exact wording or you need to lessen the anxiety by all means pick up your notes. Just put your notes to the side, on a table and keep them out of your hands. Position the notes so you can glance at them when needed but they’re not a crutch.

You have the power to deliver a memorable and engaging presentation. Don’t let something small like a piece of paper influence the way you are perceived by your audience.

Your audience is interested in what you have to say – not what your notes say!

Nervous about an upcoming presentation? 

The Skilled Presenter is the most comprehensive presentation-skills workshop on the market. Join us September 17-18 for a VIRTUAL-LIVE  workshop and learn how to craft content, engage your audience and perform with impact, whether online or face-to-face.

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