Speaking Tips for Speakers ~ How to Put Your Notes Together

IMG_0673

If you’re a speaker or a Bible teacher, you know that the way you type out and organize your notes is very important. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

It’s hard to listen to someone who is reading her message instead of sharing it from her heart. 

How you put together your notes is an important component to a well delivered message.

You may try several different ways before you land on something that works for you.

I’ve spoken from Post It notes tagged in my Bible; from a Bible size booklet I formed so that I could easily tuck it in my Bible and turn the pages as I spoke; from a one page outline; from 3 X 5 cards and from a message I typed out word for word (and from ways I’m sure I’ve forgotten 🙂 )

But trying to find what works for me has been a process. There are so many variables with each speaker, each event and even the different seasons of your life.

What worked for me 10 years ago, doesn’t work as well for me now. I’ve got those over 40 eyes, so the font needs to be larger. Technology has enabled me to research and organize differently.

Here are 5 tips to help you prepare your notes for your next message:

1. Use a font size and type that you can easily read. It’s distracting to see a speaker put her glasses on and off, so if you need a larger font, use it and be glad we aren’t relegated to back in the days when we used typewriters and were limited to one size font. I use 14 or 15. And I generally use Times New Roman because my eye is used to seeing that font, so I feel familiar with it. Use BOLD fonts and Italics to help set apart words that you want to be sure to convey.

2. Space between your lines. If you only use one line space then you are creating a page of words that may have a tendency to run together. Use 1.2 or 1.3 to give you some space between each line so that when you glance down it will be easy to see where you are. The notes are there for quick reference, or to read your Scripture passage from…not to read though.

Color-code your message: Have a color chart that works for you. Use different colors for your fonts and/or different colors for highlighting specific points in your message.

Here is the color-coding chart that works for me:

Red  Font~ Bible references and Bible passages

Blue Font ~ Quotes

Green Font ~ Illustrations and points I want to make from those illustrations. (I also type (ILLUST) and (POINT) in bold green font beside it.

Yellow Highlight ~ Points throughout the message I don’t want to miss

Pink Highlight ~ Main points of the message. If I have 3 points to share, I highlight those main points in pink

  • COLOR CODE bullet points ~ for easy reference

3. Glue your pages back to back ~ When you try to turn one page at a time they stick together and you begin fumbling with your pages. I use a glue stick and glue the pages back-to-back which makes them easier to turn because they are bulkier.

4. Use a red marker to draw an arrow to things you don’t want to miss ~ even if it’s already in a color-coded font or is highlighted, a red arrow draws your attention to those key points you don’t want to miss.

5. Number your pages in the top right hand corner ~ You can either add them on your computer or you can write them out, but you need to be sure you number your pages or you’ll wonder where you are in the message.

Remember, whether you’re teaching through Isaiah or speaking on friendship at a women’s retreat, you’re taking your audience on a journey with you. Your job is to navigate through your message in such a way that they don’t realize you’ve even looked at your notes except for when it was time to share Scripture.

Putting together a system that works for you will help you present your message more clearly.

I still share some messages from Post It notes and some from outlines…depending on the venue. But typically, if I’m speaking at a conference or a retreat, this is what works for me. But…different things work for different people. The key is to find what works for you.

Now it’s your turn. Share what works for you. How do you put your messages together? Did any of this help?

7 Comments

  1. Stephanie,

    I smiled and nodded yes, as I read through as almost all of this I already do and have for years. I use 14 pitch/Times New Roman. Once used Palinto (sp?) and while I enjoy reading that font, speaking from it is not good for me.

    The only thing you mentioned that I’ve not done and haven’t needed to do is glue the pages back to back. I put my message in small 1/2 size colorful binders (yellow, lime green, deep fuscia–I code it as close to what the event is…I just like doing that) and I number on the bottom right not the top. My eye just naturally falls down to the bottom right. I turn the pages with ease so I’ve not had that difficulty.

    I so agree on taking the audience on a journey so reading your notes is fine but not all the way through. I believe (for me), that it’s important to have the message in my heart and spirit so that God flows it through me. I do use my notes as a point of reference but will not read from it entirely. Later after a message I often look back and see the places where God led me to say something different or not at all or where He gave me something else fresh/new to say. I usually also go by the feel of the audience…their eyes, facial expressions, body language can often tell somewhat how the message is affecting them however the body language, etc. should not be the sole focus for the speaker because you can get distracted in that or misread it.

    I’ve not used Post-It Notes, probably because I use them so much at home I don’t want to use them for a message 🙂 In the past I used index cards and did not like that at all. So I stick with a prayed over and prepared message typed out on white paper in large type with color codes. I also typically have an area where if time is critical, I can block out a complete section and not lose the flow of the message. I learned that in 2001 when I ministered in Oklahoma and the venue was running late. I was not the first speaker and had to wait on another speaker. It was cutting into the time they had alloted for me. When it was time for me to minister/speak, the woman quickly said to me, try to cut it down to 45 minutes rather than the original hour. This was being said to me as the other woman was reading my bio and welcoming me to the platform. I was thinking, LORD what do I cut out to bring it down to 45 minutes from an hour? 15 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time but it is when you’re message is for an hour. I learned two things back them in 2001, #1 don’t plan the message for the full time right to the moment… I have enough of the written message and I allow for God to give me enough to say that will fill the time as I speak from my heart, and secondly, I mark a section of the message that if time is shortened, I can leave a part out without losing the flow of the message. Hope that makes sense.

    Ok, did I ramble on? I’m not reading it over so I hope it makes sense. Love you girl and can’t wait to see you. I know we planned April. I have two events now in April (weekend of the 12th and 20th) so let’s chat about when we can meet up. Love you bunches and thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Love this! Please post more on this subject ladies:)!

      • Hey Tara, Stephanie really hit it on the head. There is more I could share too but it depends on what you need. I could probably write a post as well. There is so many aspects to be aware of. I think we all come at it perhaps, it different ways. I think one of the most important things for me is that I don’t just automatically say Yes to everything without knowing that the Lord is leading me. That is not something a few agree with but I believe in doing things prayerfully and carefully. Just because I’m a minister/speaker doesn’t mean that every door that opens to me is a door from God. I don’t want a good door, I want a God ordained door. Only once did I step into a door years ago, to speak and quickly knew it was not a door God opened. He took care of it for me in His grace but I learned after that not to step ahead of Him and accept just because it was offered. You may not need that tip but it’s definitely one I walk with. 🙂 Love you and Stephanie and I’m sure Tara you will glean LOADS from Stephanie!

      • Tara, you are such a gift! I know that when God calls you to speak and opens those doors, that He is calling you beyond yourself. That’s the way He always seems to work…calling us to do what is impossible on our own. But He is using you and the message He has tucked in your heart, through the voice, giftedness, personality and experience that make you uniquely you. So excited to see doors opening for you! So glad you’re willing to walk through them! 🙂

    • Love your insight Lisa! Speaking is such a journey as we seek to share from His heart those who are listening. I LOVE learning new things along the way that help me become more effective and more prepared. Stirring up those gifts! 🙂

  2. Love this Stephanie – thanks for such practical tips!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *