Baby steps to speak without notes

The ability to speak without notes for some is like breaking the enigma code.   Once a word is written or typed, human nature commonly takes us down the path of thinking we must say every word, exactly how it is written.   This is only true if quoting from someone else’s work, which is quite difficult to do without notes, one must memorize the work exactly and quote the source.  We can make it easier on ourselves, by paraphrasing and announce the author’s work as paraphrased.

What is important is not repeating our words verbatim but sharing the intent of what we have written. The message is the all-important reason why you are up there speaking.  Don’t let stumbling over the precise phrasing of words to impede the authentic nature of your message.

Look Say Method

The method I share with my students is simple.   Look……….Say

That’s it!

We look at what is written on our note card, each sentence a separate idea. Your English teacher would have drilled into you that each sentence should carry one idea. When creating your note cards space these ideas apart so they are easy to read as separate ideas.

Step 1

Look at the sentence/idea – don’t speak

Step 2

Look at someone in the audience in the eye – speak

Say the full sentence/ idea – do not break eye contact until the sentence is complete.

Step 3

(if we have to) glance at the card again – don’t speak

Step 4

Look at someone else in the audience – speak


Like a baby learning to walk, it feels awkward and clumsy.  But with practise, you will overcome this awkward feeling.  Beyond that feeling is a version of you, who is a confident speaker who has little use for or no use of notes. You will become a confident engaging speaker.