When you think about speaking in public, you may have visions of standing in front of a crowd with your notes scattered on the podium in front of you. But how do you nail a speech in a situation where you do not or can not have notes? Believe it or not, but this is a question I get all the time.
How do you speak well without notes? You must focus on making a connection with your audience, speak from the heart, and tell them a story. Open the floor for your audience to have a question and answer period. And as with most things, practicing your speech beforehand is absolutely essential.
At least, that is the short version of the answer that I have for you. If you’re unsure of exactly what I mean by making a connection or telling a story, don’t worry; I am going to go over what I mean in more detail below. Read on to get a better sense of how to speak well in public without notes, and do so in a confident, professional manner.
How to Speak Well Without Notes?
There are many public speakers and students that I talk to who tell me that they prefer the method of speaking without notes. Then, others will express how anxious they are to give it a try. You should always remember that there may be times when you will be asked to speak on a moment’s notice without any chance for preparation or notes of any kind. That is why it is a great idea to cultivate this skill when you have the chance to do so.
There are a few simple methods I can give you to use to speak well without the use of notes. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
#1 Connecting with your Audience
Plenty of people tell me that they are not sure how to properly connect to their audience during a speech. It is important to make sure to engage your audience so that they are hanging off of every word you speak. Otherwise? You risk them losing interest. The difference between speaking well or not can sometimes come down to how well you make that connection.
To connect with the audience you’re speaking to, try the following:
- Entertain and use humor when appropriate. People love to laugh, and this will help keep their attention on you and what you’re saying.
- Use the “You” metod. I have often found that using the word “you” a lot when speaking helps my audience members feel like I am trying to reach them on a personal level. This helps create a better connection.
- Eye contact is powerful. Just a few seconds of direct eye contact with someone from your audience will help you make a stronger impact when speaking without notes.
- Be personal. At music concerts, the crowd often goes wild when someone on stage mentions the name of the town he is performing in. People are loyal to their cities, companies, and schools. Try appealing to that loyalty to show that you care.
- Make yourself familiar with the listeners. If possible, try to talk to some of your audience members before the presentation begins. You can introduce yourself and get people talking about your topic before it’s even time for you to speak.
When you are trying to speak well without notes, making a solid connection to your audience will help them trust what you have to say. It will also give you needed confidence to keep going.
#2 Speak from the Heart
It might sound cliché, but speaking from the heart is an excellent strategy to speak well without notes. When you stand up to speak in front of your audience, don’t be afraid to bear your soul. Be honest, be emotional, and be compelling. These are things that will draw people in and keep them listening.
When speaking from the heart, show that you are genuinely excited about your topic. Are you speaking about the career you do for a living? A beloved hobby? Or maybe a person that has inspired you? The best way to motivate your audience to feel positive about your subject matter is to show them how positively you feel about it, too. After all, why are they going to get excited if you can’t even get excited about it?
If you really get into what you are talking about, don’t be afraid to improvise something that you didn’t plan for during practice. Being real and in the moment can show authenticity to your audience. And that can go a long way toward motivating the crowd on an emotional level.
There is clearly a reason that you were the person chosen to speak about a certain topic. Now ask yourself, how do you show the audience why it matters to you? Once you are able to convey that, you will be on your way to speaking well without notes.
#3 Tell a Story (or “Make a point, tell a story”)
You have invaluable life experiences that probably contribute to the topic that you are speaking about. Ask yourself if your audience could benefit from hearing about some of these experiences. In fact, telling a story can be one of the most important aspects of how to speak well without notes. If you master this, you will be on your way.
Think about your topic, and then think about a time when this topic impacted you personally. Share that with your audience. As I said before, be raw, be honest, and be emotional. People will value those qualities, and it will make the impact of your speech much better.
But when I speak to my students about telling a story when they speak, some still don’t quite grasp the concept. Here are a some good tips to make it easier to understand:
Take your time to brainstorm
If your speech is not random or completely unprepared, take time to brainstorm about a possible story you can share. You can even try narrowing it down to multiple stories, sharing them with family or friends, and having them give you feedback on which one they think is best.
Ask someone else who is well-educated on this topic what kind of story they think would have the most impact on an audience to get your point across. A mentor or co-worker might be able to give the best feedback to this question.
Go with the flow
When you have to give an unplanned speech without time to prepare, it can be a little harder to construct your story. Start thinking of a time when the topic last came up in your life, and build from that. Go with the flow and see where it takes you. If you start to feel anxious, take deep breaths and try to relax.
#4 Leave Time at the End for a Question and Answer Period
Whether you are speaking with or without notes, sometimes it is hard to come up with enough unique material to speak for a certain amount of time. And there may be audience members who have valuable questions based off of what you were just talking about.
Why not open the floor up to a question and answer period? You should only open the floor up to a question and answer session after you have covered the key points about your topic. If you do so too early, you may risk confusing your audience, or having to backtrack.
Before opening the floor, make sure you ask yourself what kind of questions you might be asked. This way, you will be able to better prepare to give the right answers. You do not want to be stumped because you got a question that you were not anticipating with no answer prepared. If your speech is planned, you will have plenty of time during practice to go over a list of possibilities.
And if you are worried that not enough people will ask questions, you can take the time to restate some of your main points. You can also introduce questions yourself that you can provide the answers to. This could help get the ball rolling, and it might promote your audience to think of more questions than they want to ask.
#5 Practice, Practice, Practice
You have heard this a thousand times by now, but the best way to master any skill is to practice. And if you have time to prepare for your speech, you should be taking as much of that time as possible to practice. Constant practice is one of the best ways to be able to speak well without having notes.
So, how do you make your practice sessions more effective?
- When practicing, try to do it in front of family or friends. Have them give you feedback after you are done.
- Or if you don’t have a practice audience to speak to, try recording yourself when you speak. When you watch back your performance, you can critique yourself and find ways to improve before the day of the actual speech.
- You can also try practicing in front of a mirror so you can observe your body language, hand gestures, and stance. Pay attention to your posture.
- Practice keeping track of what the purpose of your speech is going to be. If you have a clear idea of the purpose, then you know what you can go back to in the event that you lose your place or forget some of what you were going to say.
- Remember during practice that when the day of the big speech comes up, it’s okay if it doesn’t go exactly as you practiced it.
Some of the Benefits of Speaking Without Notes
As I mentioned before, some speakers have a preference for speaking without notes. For others, the very thought can make them anxious. When you know you will have to speak without notes, it can help to think of some of the benefits of giving a speech without having anything to hold in your hands.
Many people have come up to me after a speech and told me that “my lack of notes made me seem like I was more prepared and knowledgeable about my topic”. After all, some people may have the perception that speaking without notes increases credibility. This is because audience members will assume that if you are able to talk about something without looking down at notes, you must really be an expert.
Speaking without notes can also help you seem more authentic to your audience. This is especially true if you are telling an emotional story that helps you connect to those you’re speaking to. It can also make you appear more relatable.
So, we have learned that it is absolutely possible to speak well without any notes. Trust me when I say that I have done it many times, and it really isn’t as hard as some people make it look. Simply focus on making a connection, speak from the heart, tell a story, open the floor for questions, and practice as much as you can. With the right techniques and adequate practice, you will be mastering this skill in no time.
Now, if you feel like you want more confidence when you are speaking in public without notes, then try my article here for how to speak confidently.
How do I not forget my speech? Try to memorize certain keywords that will lead you to remember the main points of your speech. Make a point to keep calm since nervousness may impact your memory. And don’t forget to practice as much as you can beforehand.
How do I get over stage fright? Visualize your speech being a success, and remember that the audience is typically forgiving. Take deep breaths and use correct posture. And start by speaking in front of just a few people before moving on to smaller crowds that gradually increase in size. (full article here)
How can I improve my public speaking skills? Know the clear purpose of the material you are trying to speak about before you ever step on stage. Record yourself giving practice speeches, and have a friend or trusted mentor watch the video to give you advice. The more you speak in public, the better you will become at this skill. (full article here)