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Use Headline Cards to Improve Your Speeches

Use Headline Cards to Improve Your Speeches
By Arthur Cooper
(c) Copyright 2003

Here is a simple and effective aid to confident and professional delivery when speaking in public. Are you making use of it?

The first golden rule to follow if you want your speech or business presentation to flow smoothly and spontaneously, is not to read it word for word from a written script. Your speech will sound stilted, and you will be looking down at your notes most of the time when you should be looking at your audience.

But unless you can memorise the entire talk as an actor would memorise his lines you are almost certainly going to need something to help you remember the vital points that you want to make.

That previous statement holds the key. All you need is a reminder of the vital points of your speech, the main headings.

The filling in between can be added spontaneously at the time of delivery. If you know your subject well enough you will find that the infilling can quite safely be left unscripted and you will have no difficulty providing it when needed. You do need to know your subject, though. You can't escape from that.

If you are less confident, then keep a scripted speech as 'standby' in case you get stuck and need to refer to it to get going again, but do try to do without it when you give your talk. Just the fact of having this emergency script available in case of total blockage will give you the confidence necessary to succeed without it.

However, you still need something to remind you of the main and important topics of your talk, and this is where 'headline cards' come in.

Many experienced speakers use 'headline cards' to jog their memories. These are postcard sized cards held in the palm of the hand and listing just the principal subjects that they want to cover. Each card shows the main bullet points for one section of the talk and at any given moment the card that is uppermost in the speaker's hand will show the points to be covered in that section of the speech.

Before moving on to the next section the speaker glances quickly at the card to check that he has covered all the points and then puts that card to the bottom of the pack. He glances quickly at the new card now revealed in order to remind himself of the points he must cover next, and away he goes again with his talk.

Practical Tips.

1.Cards of postcard size fit most comfortably into the hand.

2.Stiff paper or cardboard is best. It doesn't flop about.

3.Only use one side of each card.

4.Write in large clear letters that you can read at arms length.

5.Put only a few points on each card. 3 or 4 is good.

6.Number each card so that you can put them in order quickly. (You might drop them!)

7.Identify in some way (colour is good) cards that you can skip if you find you are running out of time.

8.If you are right-handed, hold the cards in your left hand (and vice-versa). This avoids you waving the cards about when you make hand gestures (normally made with your 'strong' hand).

With this simple memory aid you will find that you will quickly gain fluency and confidence in delivering your talks.

About the Author

Arthur Cooper is a business consultant, writer and publisher. For his mini-course 'Better speeches' go to:


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