Speaker Notes: Getting Them Right

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How your presentation speaker notes can be both your best friend, and your worst enemy


“I’ll be fine – I’ll just read from my speaker notes!” you said. A naïve (but understandable) opportunity to either shine or stumble.


Ever found yourself relying too heavily on speaker notes in a crucial presentation? PowerPoint’s speaker notes might be some presenters idea of a dream, allowing you to see what’s coming next, but they can also be a trap.

Speaker notes: digital cheat sheets or dodgy distraction?

Speaker notes are your digital cue cards, guiding your speech in the right direction. Sounds like a handy tool, but it can still go wrong.

When in presentation mode, Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a presenters dream. While their audience can see only the slides, the person standing to deliver the talk can see a whole lot more, including what slide is next and those all-important speaker notes.

Balance is key

That little text box can host anything from a full script to spartan bulletpoint thought prompts. We’ve seen them all, and it’s rare for heavy speaker note presentations to result in exceptional decks.

There’s no magic formula to follow here. Like everything else in the world of presentations, the right note style depends on the speaker’s own style and confidence.

Writing a full script is often a good starting point to figure out what you need to say. It helps you to hit the main points and avoid awkward fumbles as you get to grips with your content, and practicing it will give you a massive confidence boost.

But keeping that entire script in your speaker notes is a trap. Continually glancing down at your script will result with you dictating rather than dynamically presenting. That will disconnect you from your audience, and may make you look a bit amateurish.

Sum it up: less is more

Like a stand-up comedian jotting down a reminder for a joke on the back of their hand, a good tip is to sum up each slide’s talking points in a couple of words. Enter whatever will jog your memory, like “2019 research findings” or “client highlights”. The size and complexity depends on what you need.

Don’t chance which kind of speaker you are – work all this out during your many rehearsals. Because it’s all about practice.

It’s all in the prep, yo

We can’t stress this enough (we talk about it all the time!) rehearsal is absolutely crucial.

You need to know what kind of presenter you are to figure out what notes will work best for you. Find low-stakes scenarios to present in at first, where the bits you stumble on can be thoughtfully addressed. A hiccup could mean your sections need rearranging, or that there’s a natural break in content flow.

Make a note of anything you learn in your speaker notes. Consider including “feeder lines” that’ll guide you smoothly into the next section. For example, something like “it’s not just about hitting sales targets, it’s about XXX”. Plopping notes like this in the speakers will have you back on track with nothing more than a quick glance.

Find your own path

Finding what works best for you might take a few tries, but that’s okay. Over time, you’ll discover your unique presentation method.

PowerPoint’s speaker notes feature is definitely useful. But don’t let it become a crutch. Explore and find how it can best serve you next time you present.

And if you need more help in planning that killer client presentation, get in touch with us today. From expertly designed slides, to damn-clever PowerPoint development, no one does presentations like we do.

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