When I first started public speaking, I used a stack of typed notes and read them aloud to the audience. I had the basics down, a well studied topic, highlighted sentences where more emphasis was needed, and an occasional pause with eye contact with the audience. It worked fairly well and over time I improved, but I still felt like my speaking lacked something. One week I picked up a book about speaking without notes. My very next speech was phenomenal. The audience was engaged and I was dripping with confidence. I received all kinds of compliments after that message and I never went back to a typed manuscript.
The preparation for speaking without notes is not that different than speaking with them. In both cases you start with studying a topic and creating an outline, but the last steps for each is different. With a speech with notes you would spend some time writing the document, careful to word things just right. You would then read it out-loud several times to check for errors. You could then highlight some important points if you like. Then it’s ready for delivery.
The next step for noteless speaking is to organize your outline on note-cards, with each card representing a point of the message. The last step is memorization. I know what you’re thinking, but you too can engage your audience through memorization (Tweet That!). It just takes time and repetition. The benefits of noteless speaking are amazing.
The first benefit is it allows you to more effectively engage the audience. When you don’t have to refer to notes it allows you constant eye-contact with your audience. People feel like you are speaking directly to them. If feels more like a conversation than a speech. You’ll gain the freedom to leave the platform and walk among those gathered to hear you.
A second benefit is you can more effectively use body language to get your message across. It has been said that only seven percent of communication is verbal and the other 93 percent is non-verbal. There is so much more to your speech than words. Let your audience feel your message through your expressions. Be animated in what you say. Smile, laugh, walk around, jump or lie down, but the more energy you pour into your speaking, the more the audience will receive.
Speaking without notes also forces you to know your topic well. I’m not talking about preparation of your topic but a familiarity with it. As you work to commit your information to memory you start to understand it well. It takes me about two hours to memorize a 40 minute speech outline. During that two hours I probably go over the material 20-30 times. when you get it into your spirit, you’re not so consumed with saying the exact words correctly, but it becomes something alive within you. The heart of the message will flow through you when you speak it.
Knowing a topic well brings confidence and confidence will be noticed by the audience. Speaking to an audience is a privilege and they deserve your best, so whether you speak with or without notes, always take the time to research, organize and familiarize yourself with your topic. Find something you can be passionate about and speak it from your heart.