Is there actually one critical habit for preparing to speak that will make you a better speaker/presenter? Yes, there is!
Handwritten note cards.
Let's take a look at how they make a difference to speakers and presenters and their audiences.
1) They separate you from pages of text or slide decks. Note cards (4"x6" index cards) force you to extract the essential content from the written text of your speech or from the details of your slides.
2) This is good for your audiences because audiences hate being read to. If the audience is happy with your delivery, you will gain in reputation and status.
3) Note cards give you confidence. You realize that you truly know your content and can speak it under any circumstances.
4) Note cards help you add 'oomph' to your delivery. With just a few words per card there's room to make notations about delivery style, particularly vocal variety.
5) Note cards make it very easy to practice and rehearse. You just have a handful of cards, with a few words on each one, so you can practice anywhere. You can practice without slides because the note cards remind you of the order and emphasis of your speaking content and you realize you can make sense without defaulting to the slide. The more practice, the better the perfromance.
6) Note cards help you listen to yourself as you practice. Having just a few words to glance at frees your mind from the writing and allows you to focus on the speaking.
7) Note cards allow you to repeat your practice on the sticky spots. When you hear yourself getting stuck on spots here and there, you can extract those cards from the bunch and repeat your practices until you've smoothed them out.
Many business speakers tell me they never use, or can't use, or won't use note cards. They have all sorts of reasons but I haven't found one that stands up to, and outweighs the benefits of, using them.
- Can't read without glasses but don't want to speak with your glasses? Make the notes large enough, or learn your content so well you don't need the cards at all.
- Get confused going between the text or slides and your notes? Forget the text or slides and rely only on your notes. That's what they're for.
- Think you look like an amateur with note cards? You look much more like an amateur when you read from a script or read from your slides. Speaking is not theater. Audiences want good content delivered well that makes a difference to their lives. Note cards allow that to happen.
- Don't have the time to make note cards? That means the time you do spend on the speech or presentation will be wasted altogether because your delviery will be poor and the audience will dislike you. Spend the time on note cards to make all the prep time and the actual delivery beneficial to the audience and thereby to you.
Only speaking is speaking. Reading about speaking isn't speaking.Talking about speaking isn't speaking. Writing about speaking isn't speaking. Writing your speech or presentation isn't speaking. Only speaking is speaking. Using handwritten note cards is the one critical habit for speaking preparation that helps you speak. Only speaking is speaking.