In my post The PowerPoint Revolution hasn’t gone far enough I said that PowerPoint should be an equal partner in our presentations.

There’s a major obstacle to implementing this principle. That’s using the PowerPoint slides as your notes. If you use PowerPoint as your notes, PowerPoint always cues you. You click, you speak, click-speak, click-speak.

If you use PowerPoint slides as your notes, you’re relegating PowerPoint to an administrative role – a crucial one – but still administrative. That means it can’t be an equal partner with you. Until it can break out of that role, you can’t exploit it’s full power.

istock_danceWhen you dance with your slides as equal partners, sometimes PowerPoint leads, sometimes you lead. For examples of this, see my post Dancing with your PowerPoint Slides.

To be able to dance with your slides you need to know what’s going to come up on the screen when you click. No longer do your PowerPoint slides cue you. You cue your PowerPoint slides. That means you need notes.

Notes used to be an essential item for every speaker, but as PowerPoint took over, the slides became our notes – much to the distress of audiences. The younger participants on our courses have never used notes, and the more mature ones have forgotten how. Notes are a lost art.

Notes are not a script. They are like a high-level road map which show you the main way-points, but not every little lane you might go on. Notes don’t say what you want to say – they cue you to say what you want to say.

Guidelines for creating notes

  1. 6×4 unruled system cards are an ideal size for notes. Big enough to fit a few bullet-points, but small enough to be able to hold in your hand without distracting the audience.
  2. Write in large enough writing that you can read your notes when held in your hand at arm’s length or when placed on the table in front of you when you’re presenting.
  3. Use colour in your notes to code different types of content in your presentation. For example, you could use a specific colour for your Key Message, a specific colour for stories, and so on.
  4. You can create notes in PowerPoint (as we know PowerPoint is great at creating bullet-points). Print out the slides as “Handouts” two to a page, cut them out and then stick them onto the system cards.
  5. Number your notes.
  6. Punch a hole in the top left-hand corner of your notes and use a key ring to hold them together.
  7. Use a format for your notes that works for you. The most important thing is that you should be able to glance at your notes, find your cue, and look up again. Here are two options – bullet-points and a spatial mind-map:


Rehearse with your notes

Once you’ve created your notes, rehearse with them. Check out if they work for you. After a couple of rehearsals, you may find you don’t need as many words on your cards. Rewrite them with less words.

So now you’ve got notes for what you want to say – but how is that going to integrate with your PowerPoint slides. We’ll look at that in the next post…

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