PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

My last post talked about one of the most common questions speakers ask: Can you put your hands in your pockets? 

In workshops I often get asked a second question as soon as I finish answering the hands-in-pockets question.  That second question is about holding notes: Is it okay to do so?

As with the “pockets” question, the answer is usually “No.”  Notes in the hands of a speaker can become a distraction.

Speakers will unconsciously play with their notes, waving them about or rolling them into a tube and tapping their leg.  They will nervously fold and unfold them or, worse yet, drop them.  Some speakers hold them tightly with both hands and never gesture.  And, of course, there is the problem of nervous, shaky hands being made more obvious by the paper shaking.

However, there will be times when you have no choice.  You have to hold them because there is no place convenient to put them.

In preparation for such situations, practice speaking while holding notes.  Get so you can calmly hold them at your side and reference them only as needed.  Use your other hand for gesturing so that your nervous energy has an outlet and you’re less inclined to wave the notes about.  Watch television hosts and note how they do it.  Study the hosts that are the most polished and use them as a model.

So…hold them if you have to, but remember, empty hands are the best for public speaking.

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