Speaking confidently without notes

Speaking Confidently Without Notes

Are you already saying, ‘I can’t speak in front of an audience without notes?’  With a little guidance and practice, you can be a public speaker free of notes.

A full script or even cue cards are often used; however, there are ways to remember a speech without written aids. Without notes your speeches can sound much more conversational, and create greater audience engagement if you rely on your own memory. There are a few things to think about first.

The perceptions behind speaking without notes

The reason why it might be worth speaking without notes is that there is a perception that the speaker is knowledgeable, prepared and considers the audience.

When you keep looking at your notes, it can indicate to the audience that you don’t know the material, and this creates a potential credibility gap and may be perceived as less professional. Eye contact is broken if the speaker is looking down at their notes.

Addressing these perceptions by speaking without notes results in the audience being more prepared to listen and engage from the presentation.

The benefit of speaking without notes

The main benefit of speaking without notes is that there are no mistakes, only omissions. If an anecdote or fact is missed, the audience doesn’t know. Only the speaker knows this.

Have you ever been to a concert or live show?  If a song or a spoken line is missed you still enjoy the event. You don’t know there has been an omission.

So how do you speak without notes?

No doubt you could tell the story, without notes, about your first date or your best holiday.  

This is because you know what you are going say. You know the purpose of telling, the main point and can recall the structure (beginning, middle and end) of the story.

If you know the content, whether it is personal, work-related, or your passion,then, generally, notes are not needed. If you are speaking on a topic which is less known, then some memory techniques will be helpful.

Here are four ways to achieve speaking without notes.  See if one of these methods suits you.

Method 1​   Full notes to cue cards to no notes

This is a step by step approach so you can remember cue words to assist you deliver the respective content.

If you write your speech word for word, you could select the first sentence of each paragraph and place these on a card. Practise using the first sentence to remind you of the content of the paragraph. If you feel nervous when presenting, use your cue card.

Alternatively, from your full speech jot down the main points on a card as dot points. Practise using these dot points, memorise, and only use the card when presenting, if you need them.

Try using questions to your audience in your speech. List the questions in order on a card and practise memorising the questions in order. Questions engageyour audience as they are a two-way engagement, and they aid conversational speaking. Questions are easier to remember than a string of dot points. Each question will prompt your memory to deliver the relative content.

Method 2​   Story-telling

1. Try to have one main point.
Select a single concept that you’re trying to impart on your audience. If one point is not possible, limit it to three points. Link each point to a finger. Practise each point, looking at one specific finger so it is easier to recall your memory by popping up that finger.

Embed your facts in a story.
Most of us find it easier to remember stories than we do facts. So find the narrative which creates the structure for your presentation. It could behow you learnt or obtained the material, or a story that you use as an illustration. It may be why or how this came about.

3. Practise your verbal delivery.
Practising your verbal delivery means actually saying, preferably out loud, your message again and again many times. The more you practise, the more it will become like sharing your first date or your best holiday story.

In a few weeks or months, you’ll discover the incredible freedom of not having to stare at a script.

Method 3​   The Journey

David Thomas, ‘The Memory Man’ tells how to use a journey as a tool to help you remember a speech. Using a work example:

1. Cherry- pick words in your speech

Choose a series of trigger words that will help you to remember every section. These should be enough to guide your memory; perhaps 10 to 15 words.

2. Think of a journey round a familiar setting

For example, use your home. You place trigger words in difference roomsof your house to help trigger your memory of that section in your speech.

3. Define your ‘stations’

If you have 10 trigger words to remember, design a journey round your home that has 10 stops. It could be 1) entry, 2) lounge room, 3) dining room, 4) family room, 5) kitchen, 6) laundry, 7) toilet, 8) bathroom, 9) spare room, 10) bedroom

4. Add an image for your first station’.
In your imagination, go to your starting point. Create a visual image for your first trigger word and place that at the first ‘station’ in your mind. For example, if the first part of your speech is about sales, imagine a huge white sail flapping in your entry against your front door.

5. Keep adding images to your stations

Perhaps the second part of your speech is about performance, so when you step into your lounge, imagine a Ferrari revving its engine is right there greeting you.

6. Add vivid image

As you go through all the familiar rooms in your house, each time add something outrageous or silly to trigger your emotional memory. The more emotional response you have to the word you’re trying to remember, the better.

Method 4​   The Bead & Thread Method
Another way to think about your speech is to view it as a journey you’re taking your audience, using the image of a string with different beads on it. The string is the thread that runs through your entire speech and the beads are the key moments you want to remember.

This method is based on the logic behind the presentation and the transitions from one section to the next. You don’t need to memorise the exact words.

To do this look for the main ideas (or beads) which move the speech forward in a logical manner? This will be your transitions. For example, your logic may be 1) grabbing introduction, 2) story, 3) quotation, 4) Visual images, 5) facts, 6) summary, 7) ending. These are the seven transitions to remember as they indicate the points in your presentation


The P’s of presentation and if you wish to give a presentation without notes . . 

Plan your speech, thinking of your choice of method to remember the speech

Prepare your speech with the intent to have no notes

Practise using no notes

Perform without notes

To put these tips into practice, click here to find a Group near you.



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