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Preparing presentation notes

Good notes are key to a successful presentation. 

The following information is arranged to show you how GOOD speaking notes should look.  DO NOT WRITE FULL SENTENCES IN YOUR NOTES. 

If you have full sentences, you may be very tempted to READ the notes instead of telling the audience the information.  Reading an oral presentation sounds robotic and does not lead to audience engagement. 

Good presentation notes are written in short phrases and key words (see below).  They are arranged in a way that helps you remember the main ideas and details, and prompt you along as you TELL the audience your information.


Give your thesis:

  • Go over the main points to come
    • Example:  According to The Book of Lists, what is the greatest human fear in North America?
    •  Speaking before a group!

Some anxiety is good because . . . But too much anxiety causes problems . . .

To control anxiety and give a good talk, do 2 things (thesis)

  •  Prepare your material.
  •  Practice your delivery. 

This presentation….= Prepare your materials (outline of presentation)

  • Select a topic.
  • Determine purpose.
  • Analyze audience.

Body of presentation

Pepare you material:

  • Select a topic and a clear purpose - Here's how . . .
  • Brainstorm a list of topics that you know and care about.
  • Choose a topic from the list. If topic is too broad, narrow it down. Brainstorm questions your audience might have.
  • Determine purpose: to inform/teach or persuade/convince.
  • Write it down = purpose statement …specific: I want to teach my audience how to make a very good oral presentation by breaking the process down into easy steps.

Analyze the audience - keep their needs in mind as you design your talk:

  • Find out who they are.
  • Determine their attitude to the topic and to you (positive/negative?).
  • Estimate their knowledge about the topic (novice/expert?).
  • Gather ideas on topic to meet audience's needs and your purpose.
  • Organize ideas in chunks of information (main points).
  • Categorize and label ideas.
  • Develop a few main points relating to purpose (3-5).
  • Map or outline ideas in a hierarchy (tree).
  • Write out introduction and conclusion. Intro should create interest, reveal topic, and preview main points.


Sum up and give implications:

Good preparation = confident and =  a good talk…also reduces your anxiety!

  • Choose a topic and get started early.
  • Determine a clear purpose and plan to fulfill it.
  • Know your audience and keep them in mind as you gather ideas and organize them.
  • Rehearse your talk often using a speech outline.
  • DO NOT read your presentation; tell the information.
  • Sum up by repeating main points + suggesting implications or action for the audience.

Prepare a speech outline similar to this model:

  • Write main points clearly with lots of space in between.
  • Consider breaking up talk on numbered file cards (do not write full sentences; continue  with notes with indenting and spacing even though you are using cards).
  • Highlight important points and add instructions for delivery.

Practice your delivery:

  • Rehearse your talk using your cue cards.
  • Practice your talk aloud until you really know it (but do not memorize it!).
  • Practice out loud and practice with your PowerPoint slides.
  • Practice it before friends or family.
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