Managing your Presentation Notes

From our: Presentation Skills library.

When you start to give presentations, you will realise that you also have to work out how to manage your text.

Whether you’re confident enough to speak with very brief notes, or you need a full text, you need to consider how you record it to remind you what you’re going to say.

There are various examples of ways you might choose to manage your text.

These include:

  • Full Text Notes
  • Notes on Cue Cards
  • Keywords on Cue Cards
  • Mind Maps.

Full Text Script

The main advantage of this method is that the entire text is in front of you so you cannot forget what you want to say.

The disadvantage, however, is that you will pay less attention to the group or audience whilst reading the text.  If you are speaking to a small group, this method might be overly formal, as written text sounds very formal when spoken out loud. If you read a prepared text, you should know what you are going to say very well so that you can maintain eye contact with your listeners whilst not losing your place.

Reading the text is not always an easy option as it can sound stilted and rather unnatural. Remember to engage with your audience as much as you can.


When reading from a full-text script it is also much harder to change what you’re going to say halfway through, if you see that your audience is starting to fidget.

To help, you can use big bold headings to guide your eyes through the text so that you can skip sections if you want.

Notes Pages from a Slide Package

Most presentation packages, including PowerPoint, have an option to create a page of ‘Slide Notes’.

You can use these to write out more or less detailed points about what you plan to say in relation to every slide that you use.

The advantage is that everything that you want to say is tailored to your slides. However, the packages are not very sophisticated: you cannot, for instance, highlight sections, or play with the font size very easily. This means that it can be hard to identify quickly and visually the most important points to make.

You will also end up with a sheaf of papers, which can get a bit flappy and hard to handle. This can come across as somewhat unprofessional.

Cue Cards

To use cue cards, write your main points on separate index cards and, underneath each point, write the supporting material in a concise way.

When using Cue Cards...

Use only one side of the card and number the cards so that you can easily reorder them if you drop them.

On the bottom of each cue card, write a link statement to lead you into the next point.

The advantage of using cue cards is that you are speaking directly to the audience, which increases your rapport with them.

Small index cards also look more professional than large sheets of paper which may prove difficult to handle. The disadvantage is that you have to write them by hand since Powerpoint and similar packages don’t offer an option for ‘keycards’, only ‘Notes pages’.

To avoid losing your thread, ensure that you are familiar with the main points of your argument and the links between one idea and the next so that you become less reliant on the cards.

Keywords on Cue Cards

Further simplify the information on the cue cards by drawing out keywords that will remind you of the key points that you wish to convey.

The advantages of using keywords on cue cards are the same as above but their use increases spontaneity and rapport with the audience even further.

However, if you become side-tracked, it is easy to lose the thread and possibly miss key points. It’s best only to use this method if you are very familiar with your subject and feel confident in making the presentation.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are diagrams used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and can be used as notes to aid a presentation.

The advantages of using a mind map are similar to those of using keywords on cue words but it is easier to illustrate complex relationships than with keywords.

However, again, using mind maps as a presentation aid requires you to be familiar with the subject material and a confident speaker. When presenting it can be difficult to keep track of your progress through a mind map, but it can be very helpful if you want to interact with your audience, as you can just reorder your points to fit the session.

It’s up to you!

When you’re giving a presentation, it’s up to you to choose a method of handling your notes that works for you.

Whatever you do, someone is sure to judge you on it, so you simply have to make sure that you’re comfortable, and don’t worry what anyone else says.

The important thing is to get your points across confidently and competently, and not to show off.