By Carey Nieuwhof, pastor of Connexus Church, Toronto, Canada

Rearview studio shot of a young businessman overwhelmed by paperwork
Rearview studio shot of a young businessman overwhelmed by paperwork

So, why should you learn to speak without using notes? Because you can. And because it will make you far more effective. There are at least seven good reasons to drop your notes:

1. Your favorite communicators don’t use notes. Why? Because the best rarely, if ever, do. People connect better with speakers who speak without notes. You do. So why not become one?

2. You seem far more sincere and authentic when you don’t use notes. This isn’t a good thing. It’s just a true thing. You might be 100 percent sincere and authentic when reading from your notes. But you don’t come across that way.

When you read a speech, or rely heavily on your notes, people think it’s coming from your head, not your heart. Or worse, they think it’s a series of points you’re supposed to believe but don’t. Freeing yourself up from your notes creates a much more believable message.

3. You will be far more natural. There’s a ‘reading voice’ and a ‘speaking voice’ people have. It takes exceptional skill to read in a way that sounds authentic, conversational and natural.

Let’s be honest. Almost none of us do it well. When you speak without using notes, you will be far more conversational, engaging and natural. And your body language will be 100 percent better.

4. You can make eye contact. That’s just huge. It’s annoying when people don’t look you in the eye when they talk to you. It’s completely disengaging when a public speaker doesn’t.

5. You will read the room better. So much of communication is nonverbal. While you can’t always see the audience when you talk (in the case of pre-recorded video or dark house lights), when you can, it’s invaluable.

You can see which parts of your talk are resonating, and which aren’t, so you can linger longer or move on faster. You can see who’s leaning forward, and who’s falling asleep. It can help you track how you’re connecting. And best yet, you can adjust.

6. You’ll own your material more deeply. When you have to ‘say it’ without notes, you’ll own it so much better. Learning your talk forces you to digest it, internalize and own it. As a result, your talk will be more compelling and authoritative.

7. You’ll be more vulnerable. Notes are safe. Speaking without them is more risky but more rewarding. Sure, you might mess up, but laugh at yourself. People will laugh with you. They’ll like you because you’ll seem human, which, after all, you are.

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