How to Format Speech Note Cards

The humble index card is a powerful speechmaker's tool.
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Your hands are sweaty. Your legs feel shaky. You're light-headed. Now step up to the lectern and give your speech. Because you prepared ahead of time by creating well-formatted, informative speech note cards, you can overcome these jitters and deliver your speech, knowing you won't forget any of the important information you need to cover. Creating note cards is one of the most comforting preparation steps you can do before giving a speech, whether in front of strangers or your peers.

Number your note cards. If you accidentally drop your cards or get them out of order while shuffling them, having them numbered helps you get them back into order quickly.

Type or hand-write the information on each card. Use a larger font -- 14 or 16 point -- if you are printing the information on the cards. Print a sample card or two to check the font size, making sure you can easily see the printing from the distance between the lectern and your eyes when you are standing up.

Double-space the information on the cards. Writing on every line makes it difficult for your eyes to locate the information you need. Use a bold font or highlight the important points you must cover on each card. Focus on writing keywords rather than complete sentences. However, if you are incorporating a quote or poem into your speech, write it in its entirety so you don't forget it.

Place reminders to yourself on the cards, such as "pause here" or "point to visual now."

Practice your speech. Use your cards as you go through the speech so you'll know whether everything you need to cover is recorded on the cards. Pay attention to how often you look at the cards. If you find yourself reading the cards frequently, reduce the number of words on each card to train yourself to look at your audience more and your cards less.

  • Use actual index cards, not cut-up pieces of paper, which may stick together or appear unprofessional.

Deanne Lachner has been writing and editing fiction and nonfiction for more than 15 years. She has published articles in "Working Women," "Performance Magazine" and the "Direct Selling News." Lachner holds a master's degree in English from Texas Woman's University and is pursuing a second master's degree in instructional design and technology.