“Throw Away Your Notes”

This is an article of the same title by Dr Ralph Smedley for Toastmasters Magazine, March 1960, pp28-29:

This is a bit of advice heard too frequently from an evaluation in a Toastmasters Club. It is not good advice, however well intended.

The use of notes is a skill which every speaker should cultivate. It is true that there is greater freedom when one speaks without reference to anything but his audience, but it is equally true that the speaker often needs the safety and reassurance given by having before him some materials with which to refresh his memory.

Use small cards for your notes. The three by five inch size is good, and even a slightly smaller card will serve. Place only a few words on each card – just enough to help your memory. Key words or phrases will remind you of the point which comes next. These should be written or typed in letters large enough to read without close scrutiny. If the cards must be held in the hand, hold them unobstrusively, and lay them down on the table except when you need them.

Never hold the cards in your hand while gesturing. Do not wave them at your audience. Do not permit them to interfere with eye contact.

Notes are a support, an insurance to the speaker. They help to keep him from forgetting or digressing. But they are good only when properly used.

Don’t throw them away. Learn to use them, by careful practice, and then when you need them, they will be a help and not a hindrance.

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