Speaking Without Notes
We often admire speakers who “just stand up and talk” at Toastmasters meetings; no notes, no lectern hugging and no flat-sounding recitations. We can do that, too. The secret is in the preparation.
The first step is to memorize an opening and closing. The opening is where we usually experience “brain freeze. “And, our crisp closing is too often diluted as we struggle to end our speech. When we commit these two parts to memory, we start with a bang and end cleanly and concisely.
Break the rest of the speech into main points — usually three. These are “thought notes,” short phrases or single words that outline what we want to talk about.
We don’t want to risk sounding like a sixth-grader reciting lines in a school play, so we don’t memorize the words about our subject. We know a great deal about each idea after researching and crafting the speech so we’ll have more than enough to say in our own words.
Once the thought outline is complete – and this is the key to speaking without notes — place each main point (mentally) in a room in your home. Use ridiculous and flamboyant images to help implant the ideas into your “mental speech map.”
For example, a speech about sorting socks might start with mental picture of a man kneeling in front of a pretty woman in the entry hall but instead of presenting an engagement ring he is displaying his well-organized sock drawer; key “tidy.”
Then, see point two, the second advantage of sorting your socks (key “organized”) in your dining room as an accountant at a desk but instead of tax forms she is working with piles of mismatched socks and looks frazzled, her glasses askew.
In the kitchen you might imagine huge socks shaped into circles like tires, complete with worn areas and bald spots to remind you to discuss “wearing out evenly” as your final point.
Then, as you practice and rehearse your speech you can mentally walk from room to room and recall each idea you want to present. During your presentation just mentally walk through your own home to remind yourself of your thought notes.
It’s a good idea to know where in the speech the green and yellow lights should appear. If the green light appears before you reach the predicted point in your speech, immediately go into “ending mode.” That is, transition directly to that point in your talk where you expected a yellow light and continue from there. However, if the red light suddenly intrudes on your consciousness, immediately launch your memorized ending.
You’ll give a good speech, not tied to notes, and no one will know if you skipped a point or left out supporting material. And, your speech will sound and look like a profound and professional presentation. Without notes!