Use speaker’s notes (just don’t read them)

Almost any presentation will benefit from your creating speaker’s notes.

These can be as simple as a few bullet points that you use to remind yourself of the key ideas you want to mention in a status meeting or they can be as detailed as a word-for-word script of what you plan to say in a major speech.  I usually work by writing out a complete script for what I’m going to say and find that the exercise of writing everything down helps me work out my ideas thoroughly enough that I rarely need to look at what I’ve written after I’ve created the final version.

You might not want to go that far, but it’s generally a good idea to at least create an outline that you can use if you stumble and forget where you are in a talk or you find yourself unable to use your slides and follow the structure they provide.  If you’re using slides, Powerpoint and Keynote both give you options that allow you to see your speaker’s notes on your monitor while the audience only sees your slides on the projector screen.  This can be hugely effective in helping you keep track of where you are and what your next point will be.

Whatever you do, just don’t read your notes to the audience.  Nothing drains their attention and interest more quickly than being read to.

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