Public speakers who maintain a conversational tone have a better chance of keeping their audience engaged. Constantly looking down at notes hinders the conversational nature of a presentation and causes your audience to lose interest. So how can you prepare and then speak without notes?
Below I will present three steps towards speaking without notes, but first you must remember that practice makes perfect. There is simply no substitute for experience. The more you speak without notes, the more opportunity you give yourself to grow and become a better speaker. With that in mind, here are three steps towards speaking without notes:
(1) Clarity of Purpose.Decide what is the one thing you want your audience to grasp, learn, think about, be motivated towards, etc... Then, write out that one main thing in one concise sentence. If it is not clear to you, it will not be clear to them. But, if you have a clear goal for your speech, that you can articulate, then you have taken your first step towards speaking without notes. This is because once your goal is clear to you, it will be easier to internalize, thus reducing the need for notes.
(2) The Path to Take. Decide what authorities or manner of reason you will appeal to in order to persuade people towards your goal. Will you use multiple human interest stories? Will you present statistics, sociological studies, quote popular authors, or reference scientific facts? What will you use to persuade people that your perspective is the one they need to adopt? Then, memorize numbers, rehearse stories, and take the time to think about what you are saying from the audience's perspective. Is your argument sound? Is it convincing? As you thinkthrough these questions, you will begin to internalize how you will make your main point.
(3) Rehearse and Refine. Once you decide the manner of persuasion for your speech, then you must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. As you rehearse, you will become more convinced of your own argument, gain clarity on what needs to be cut or strengthened, and refine the flow. There is no substitute for practice. Sometimes the difference between a speech being good enough and being excellent is thirty minutes to an hour... the time it takes to rehearse and refine that extra time or two.
Having clarity of purpose, deciding the path to take, and putting in the time and effort to rehearse and refine will move you along the path towards speaking without notes. You will grow in confidence the more you practice these steps and your audience will thank you for it.
On a final note… The Path to Take is the step that tends to be the most time consuming. Be patient. Don’t settle for good enough. Do what is your personal best. A simple outline on one piece of paper can be a great aid in this step. Write out your introduction in it’s entirety. Make sure your word choice is clear and your first few seconds will arrest the attention of your audience. Make it clear in your mind how you are going to begin and why people should listen to you. Then, make a bullet point outline of the body of your speech. Use keywords or brief descriptors for your points and transitions to help you see the flow of your argument. Finally, write out the conclusion in its entirely. Just as you want to arrest attention in the introduction, you want to be clear in your conclusion as to the call to action. Make it clear to yourself and it will be clear to your audience. Know your goal, and the audience will understand the response required of them based on what they have just heard.
Clarity of purpose, the path to take, rehearse and refine, and lastly… have fun and enjoy yourself! After all the hard work of preparation, it’s time to deliver the goods. Be yourself, let your passion come though, and enjoy what you do.