Monday, February 8, 2010

Palin's hand-written notes: For speakers

Your political views aside, Sarah Palin's use of notes written in the palm of her hand over the weekend--caught by cameras--adds a whole new layer to our discussion of whether you need notes or not when you speak.

This Los Angeles Times columnist hits the nail on the head for most speakers:
Most of us need some help when we speak in public. In high school, I competed in extemporaneous speaking, an event in which you had to analyze a current-affairs topic for eight minutes without much preparation. The rules allowed you to use an index card with a maximum of 50 words of notes, but my teammates and I prided ourselves on our ability to wing it without a card. (This worked against me at one speech tournament, when a judge ranked me last because a performance as smooth as mine "had to be memorized.")
The columnist notes he needs fewer notes today, as an adult, when he speaks.

So let's clear things up: Notes are fine, if they help your confidence. And it's fine if the audience can see you holding cards, a text or even a Kindle, which can help you avoid shuffling and losing pages.  But writing notes on your palm might suggest that you wanted to hide your notes even more than usual, especially for a high-profile speaker like Palin.  There's no shame in using notes, so why seek to conceal them?  I think she could have avoided the controversy and seemed more down-to-earth working from a text that wasn't hidden. Share your thoughts on how you like to roll--notes or not--in the comments.

Related posts:  Should you use notes--or not?

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Stevie King said...

Notes are fine. I don't care for them when I speak, but I do not find them distracting or a crutch. I wouldn't go with write them on my hand, but I think if a speaker is prepared and uses them as a part of their presentation, so be it.

Philana said...

I thinks notes are fine. I am part of a pastoral team and I preach in church I use notes. But I make them inconspicuous. I use Keynote 09 so for one thing since I have an iTouch I use Keynote Remote which allows me to also view my presenter notes. Or if I go analog I use half sheets (since I use a Bible when I preach they fit nicely). Notes are fine, but writing them on your hand also gives the impression that you are not prepared, because you just wrote your notes since the last time you washed your hands. It looks like you didn't take the time, which to whatever audience you are speaking can appear disrespectful.