Credibility: 15 Facets of Speaking Professionalism: #5 - Notes

For aspiring and experienced speakers alike, each aspect of credibility is to be closely guarded and continually built upon. This series of articles will focus on 15 facets of credibility that must exist for all speakers to succeed over the long run. ďInstant CredibilityĒ through celebrity or notoriety must be nurtured for a career to flourish. If you are building from the ground up, each point must be examined and properly attended to in order to build deep roots on the speaking circuit.

Facet #5: Notes

Notes, notes, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways! Notebook paper, note cards, sticky notes, notes on my hands, notes taped to chairs, notes on cue cards, and the ever-irritating notes-as-presentation known as Power Point!

Notes impact our credibility whether they are present or not. If you donít use them, and then forget your presentation, youíre done for. If you do use them, you run the risk of using them incorrectly. Depending on the length or content of your talk, notes may simply be a necessary convention, unless you possess a photographic memory. If you are primarily telling stories and are not spitting out hard data, your lack of notes will work in your favor.

6 Strategies to Make Notes Work FOR You:

1. Outline format. Use keywords and key phrases to outline your speech and identify your

2. 28 point type. Never strain to review your notes.

3. Precise data. Keep your stats on note cards to insure you are always 100% correct when using
    numbers. A misspoken date or statistic can cost you your audience in an instant.

4. Accurate verbiage. Get the quote right, and accurately attributed. If using poetry or prose to
    make a point, reading it from a card is acceptable, as long as your dramatic vocals push through  
    the emotions.

5. Use the right cards. I use 4x6 cards, number them, keep them in order, and keep them out of
    sight as much as possible.

6. Know your environment. If you have access to the stage, tape notes to the floor at the spot you
    intend to be for each point. This requires careful planning, precise practice, and LARGE print.

5 Strategies to Make NO Notes Work FOR You:

1. Tell stories. No one knows if exactly how you are going to tell a story, so being precise is not
    always necessary.

2. Memorize key transitions. Between your stories, know where you are going based on your last
    point, cadence, and timing.

3. Segment your presentation. Itís easier to keep your points straight when they are properly
    ordered and presented, both for you and your audience.

4. Speak for shorter periods of time. Why speak for an hour when 20 minutes is all it will take for
    you to make your point?

5. Practice, practice, practice. Tape yourself. Film yourself. Listen to yourself. Remember, no one
    knows about your lack of perfection but you.

Your credibility takes a hit every time you look at your notes for support, lose your place, and start reading your cards. Conversely, your credibility takes a hit every time you forget a point, misstate a statistic, or start speaking out of order.

Whether you use notes or donít, use them or donít PROPERLY. Your knowledge, your expert opinion, your image, and your credibility depend on it.

Rich Hopkins is a speaker, author and coach who teaches his clients to Leap from Acceptable to Exceptional. He has 20 years of business background in marketing, sales, and customer service. He consults with individuals, student groups, non-profit organizations, and corporations. Rich is available for keynote presentations, seminars, training, as well as group or one-to-one coaching. Contact him at:


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