Michelle Bowden on stage

What NOT to do! Don’t read your notes or slides to your audience.

Most of us attend presentations regularly where the presenter reads their notes to their audience. They probably stand behind a lectern, notes balanced perfectly and look up and down from the notes, speaking as they go. The question is, do you do this?


Why do presenters read out their notes? Surely you know it’s not OK? 

There are a lot of reasons people read out their notes. The first is that you probably don’t want to go blank and look silly in front of these important people. Another reason is that you haven’t spent enough time preparing, so you don’t know what to say without the script. Thirdly, many of us want to ensure that we say everything that’s important to say.  Here’s the thing….….don’t read your notes out to your audience!


Why not?
Remember, your audience members are more likely to be convinced by what you say if they feel an affiliation for you and your message, and if you command credibility as the presenter.  If you have to keep referring to your notes (or worse, turning around to see what’s on your slides) you suggest to your audience that you don’t know your message well enough and/or that you do not respect your audience because you have not taken the required time to adequately prepare.

Further, regular reference to notes also causes you to break critical eye contact and therefore rapport with your audience, which gives them opportunities to lose focus.  This will have a direct impact on your rapport.


What should you do instead?

Presenting is really all about the eye contact!  The more eye contact you give, the better connected you’ll be. The more connected you are, the more engaged your audience will be.
If you are keen to engage your audience, it’s a good idea to at least try and deliver your presentation without using any notes or slides as a crutch. Look right at them and just talk!


How are you going to ensure you don’t need notes?

– Give some rehearsal a go. Rehearse as often as possible. Rehearsing gives you confidence to go ‘off script’ and be authentic where possible. Rehearsal means you’ll remember what to say.

– Rehearsal not Rote: And by the way, remember rehearsal is not the same as rote learning. Rehearsal is where you practice saying it in different way. Rote learning is where you try and memorise your content, word for word. You don’t want to sound robotic, instead you want to sound as authentic as possible, so rehearsal is a generally a much better choice than rote.
– Extra tip: If you really must use notes to remember what to say, then place your notes to the side of your room or stage, with a drink of water and only walk over to the notes and use them if you really must.
Remember, masterful presenting is really all about the eye contact so don’t read out your notes to your audience!

Happy Presenting!


© Michelle Bowden 2020.  Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au

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