Presentation notes


Use a larger than usual font size. Using a font size of 16 points (adjust the size to suit your own preference) will help you see the text clearly as you also maintain eye contact with the audience.

Use neatly printed cards or computer printouts. If you have more than one card or page, number them with easily readable numbers that each appear in the same location on the card or page. That way, if you drop your notes, you can quickly assemble them into the correct order.

Using digital technology instead of paper notes. If the rustling of paper notes irritates you, then perhaps you’d prefer to use a tablet or your phone for your notes. This is not uncommon today, but do consider the tip about font size. You don’t want to be squinting into your phone while trying to communicate with your audience.

Use colors to help you keep your place. It is very easy to lose your place when using notes. To help, use colors to highlight key ideas and to give your eye a reference point on the card or page. It might even help to use 2 alternating colors. That way, when you are done with one section, perhaps one that you highlighted in green, you can know to look for the next section, perhaps highlighted in pink.

Use a presenter view in Powerpoint or Keynote. It is not unusual to lose your way in a presentation with slides, like forgetting what slide is coming next. To help, both Powerpoint and Keynote have presenter views which allow you to see what slides are coming next and even which text or image is next, if you have used animation. Additionally, the presenter view allows you to see your notes at the same time, making paper notes unnecessary. However, an inconvenience with this note-setup is that you cannot wonder too far from the screen (unless you are very comfortable with your presentation and only need the notes for a reminder now and then).

Ideally, presenters will be able to deliver a presentation without any notes. But reaching that goal takes practice, and often is a result of giving the same presentation many times. Many presentations are only given once, so many people need to use notes.

It is important to note that notes are different from a script, and reading from a script should be avoided. Why? Reading word-for-word from a script tends to make presenters sound dull and robotic, which makes it harder for an audience to pay proper attention to the ideas and information communicated in the presentation. Using natural voice inflection and natural, regular eye contact with the audience help provide a conviction and emotion, which are needed for a successful presentation. Notes favour this.

Presentation notes, then, can be seen as a presenter’s visual aid. They provide a kind of map to the presentation. They should not say exactly what you want to say but instead should cue what you want to say. Further, remember that your presentation slides will contain some of your main ideas, so you can use the text of your slides to help guide you. But do remember that reading your slides word for word is little different from reading from a script, and is therefore to be avoided.

There are moments when it is acceptable to read, when accuracy is essential: quotation, legal information, giving statistics, etc. If this is necessary then you want to reduce the amount of reliance on notes overall. This comes from careful preparation and internalising your ideas: practice delivering the presentation, become familiar with the content and delivery, focus on the ideas behind the words.