Thursday, June 24, 2010

How do you take notes for speeches you're writing? New tools I like

Speeches don't just hatch themselves. More often, you do what journalists call "collecting string," saving a quote here, a fact there.  You dog-ear a page or put things in a file. The note-taking may take place over many months or a 24-hour period in an emergency (and when you have to wing it at the last minute, as I did, there's no time for notes).  Maybe you lose your notes, or forget to include one, but the main idea here is to build the speech from a wide range of potentially relevant material.  These are the facts, quotes, examples and stories that will flesh out your key message points, making them move from outline and keywords to full-blown speech.

These days, I'm making and keeping notes differently for my speeches, and wondering how you keep notes for your speeches and presentations.  Here are the new tools I like best for taking and keeping speech notes:
  1. The Amazon Kindle:  You know I like the Kindle to serve as my speech text or talking points holder. But I also use it for notes.  You can dog-ear pages you are reading; highlight specific passages; look up words using the built-in dictionary; add notes using the built-in keyboard; search for, buy and download additional references right to the device; email PDFs and Word documents to it to review and clip; and even have it read things to you as you're putting your speech together. (Now if it could just make coffee!) On a recent plane ride, I sat next to a woman preparing a sermon, dog-earing book pages and writing in the margins. When I showed her how to do the same things on the Kindle, she was hooked.  Amazon just dropped the Kindle price to $189. Now is a great time to check it out.
  2. Evernote:  I've been experimenting with this relatively new note-taking service, which offers desktop and mobile versions so you can use it anywhere.  You can keep photos, video, audio, text, web pages and more in Evernote. No time to take notes? Take a picture of something, even a page of text, with the mobile app on your phone and save it to a notebook.  Everything you put into Evernote is completely searchable, which is what sold me on it, and if you're going to keep a lot of notes in it, you can pay for premium service (the basic service is free).  Working on a panel or with a co-presenter? You can give that person access to a particular notebook, so you can both refer to it.  Thinking out loud or practicing lines extemporaneously? Save them as a voice memo to capture those priceless phrases.  If you want to archive your existing speeches, just scan them into Evernote.
  3. Qwotebook has some clever features that will help writers and speechwriters of all kinds. Just out of its beta test phase, Qwotebook's a social network where you can collect quotations: your own, things you overhear, or famous quotes you find.  Clicking on the name of the person quoted will take you to a collection of their quotes. I'm starting to play with it to pull together hard-to-find quotes, to collect good quotes from speeches I write for clients, and to share special collections of quotes with others.  I suspect it also will be a good source for very current quotes--just troll the main stream of quotes from everyone and sample what looks interesting.
Let me know what you do to take and collect notes for speeches and presentations, in the comments. Are you using any new tools you'd like to share?

Related posts: Speaker on ice: When you have to wing it (in which you learn how I managed to give a talk about episiotomies at a luncheon--possibly the funniest speech I've ever given), with tips on giving a good impromptu speech.