The right way to use notes in a presentation

Rather than relying on a full script—or, far worse, reciting your PowerPoint text verbatim—jotting down a few outline points can trigger your memory and keep you fluidly rolling along.

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Most of today’s presentations are delivered from notes.

Such an approach allows speakers to benefit from having the best of two worlds: a well-organized structure and a conversational tone.

Notes typically take the form of bulleted lists or outlines, but they can also include verbatim passages for quotes, excerpts or transitions that require precision.

If your preference is to begin by writing a complete script before whittling it down, that’s fine—but as you rehearse, eliminate as many words as possible, keeping only what’s necessary to trigger your memory. Think of those triggers like golf strokes: the fewer, the better.

If I were delivering the previous lesson to a live audience, my notes might look as follows:

Choose method of delivery:

Print your notes in a large font on 8½” x 11″ paper or notecards. Number the pages in case they fall out of sequence. If you’re using PowerPoint, mark on your notes where to click each slide; I use the abbreviation “PPT,” bold it, and highlight it in yellow.

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