Speaker Notes: Dos & Don’ts

As speech week begins next week, I wanted to take a moment or two to help you remember some of my guidelines for writing your note cards…


  • Use lined, 4 x 6″ note cards
  • Label and number EVERY card
  • Follow Standard Outline Format
    • Parts and values (deeper indention each time)
      • ROMAN NUMERALS (I., II., III., etc.)
        • CAPITAL letters (A., B., C., etc.)
          • Arabic Numbers (1., 2., 3., etc.)
    • Breaking up an idea uses at LEAST 2 parts
    • No bullet points–just the above 3 options!
  • Focus on key words (just enough to “jog” your memory!)
    • The ONLY exceptions to key words (these MUST be written out as you plan to say them!)
      • Thesis
      • Preview Statement
      • ALL transitions
  • Include 3-5 delivery cues to help you present information better
    • Pronunciation of difficult words
    • Reminders to look at different people in the audience
    • Ways to ensure you gesture effectively
    • Breath marks and pauses
  • Put your name on the back of YOUR cards
  • Practice with your notes so you don’t rely on them for every word
    • Extemporaneous speaking style (see your Quick Study Chart!)
    • Work on eye contact and get in front of rooms
    • Use empty classrooms to rehearse (gets you used to the environment!)
  • Modify your notes until just before your class period


  • Use a whole sheet of paper for your notes
  • Write a manuscript of your speech
  • Read to the audience
  • Delay writing your cards
  • Put everything in one color on the cards
  • Work on your notes during others’ speeches

I’ll have another post tomorrow to help you with some of the “Can” and “Cannot” aspects, so you can be sure your presentation is tip-top!

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