Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Public Speaking - How to Speak Without Notes


Public speaking is a scary concept for many people, though many have learnt the art of public speaking. I am still learning this art, but after 12 years of preaching, speaking in front of Rotary Clubs, school classrooms, etc, I have learnt some tips on communicating along the way!

This post is about speaking without notes. Now, to clarify, if you are a nervous public speaker, then this may seem like a huge jump for you, and speaking without notes may seem like too big a jump. If so, go have a coffee, and read a different post. Check out this one on tips on communicating effectively. Though, if you're willing to take a dive into this style of communication, then read on.

Communicating to a crowd without notes can have many benefits. Before I offer some tips on how to arrive at the point of ditching the notes, let me explain the benefits of not using them:


  • Your eyes are more likely to be focused towards the listening audience, and not the notes
  • There is a certain level of freedom that you can feel
  • People are not distracted as much by shuffling with notes and nervously holding on to a pulpit/podium
  • The listening audience generally sense you are more knowledgeable about your topic and more confident.
  • The listening audience are more engaged. (I sense this to be generally true when you speak without notes, as you are 'eye-balling' the crowd more - you are not hiding behind the podium).
Generally speaking, the benefits then of public speaking is a more engaged crowd. A crowd that is actively listening. (Of course you can still communicate without notes and still be absolutely terrible!)

So how do you speak to a crowd with no notes?

Here are some tips I have personally found helpful to engage in public speaking without notes:

  • Study your subject matter extensively. If it's preaching, then read up on the Scriptures, Biblical Commentaries, books by credible authors, etc. This takes time, but if you want to arrive at communicating with freedom, then you need to know your content!
  • Not only study your subject matter, but learn it. There's a difference.
  • Write out the presentation/sermon/talk in full. Some times people skip this step, and I have skipped this step at times. I find when I do skip the discipline of writing out what I want to communicate in full, I do not speak with as much clarity and depth if I then choose to use no notes.
  • Once you have written out your message in full, break it down into points. You can keep a copy of the fully written piece and open a new document. You are now on the way to public speaking without notes! Make sure the points spark in your mind the content that is connected to that point.
  • All you have to do now, is memorize the points and you can communicate without notes!
If you choose to engage in public speaking, for whatever reason (and for me, it's to preach about Christ and the hope he gives), then you need to honour your listeners with the best. Sometimes people speak with fully written notes and bore everyone to death, and sometimes people speak without notes and have not done the ground work, and so it lacks depth and focus.

This all being said, you can speak well and inspire the listeners with notes. 

Though, there have been times I have invested in learning the material, writing it out extensively, shortening the message into points and then memorizing the points, and I must say, I have sensed a little adrenaline rush and freedom in speaking without being tied to the pulpit.

Public speaking is a privilege. Listeners deserve our best. 

God help us learn the art of public speaking!




1 comment:

  1. Thanks sir. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don't, but I always like to say that unless we do the necessary preparation we cannot improvise with integrity.

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