By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 13-04-2021
Making good cue cards to help you confidently deliver your speech from standard office supply index or note cards is relatively easy. And using them well will lift the quality of your presentation immeasurably. Truly!
The answer is simple.
Because when you are not holding and reading the entire text of your speech, word-for-word, you are free to interact with your audience.
You are able to:
You will sound, look and feel more present! Your entire delivery will have more life, more energy!
For those of you who are nervous about making the transition from the safety of a full script to note cards, don't be. Take it slowly. Give yourself time to thoroughly rehearse with them and you'll be delighted with the result.
Step by step guidelines on how to make and use cue cards
You'll need a packet of standard index cards, similar to the one in the illustration below, a selection of highlighters, (for example, yellow, pink, blue and green), and an easily-read pen. I suggest using one with either blue or black ink.
The information you put on your cards and how you lay it out is critically important. You need to be able to read and understand them at a glance. (See the illustration below)
The most user-friendly cue cards:
Before starting the cue cards you need to make sure your speech is fully prepared.
The next 3 steps are an essential part of the preparation process.
Using your speech outline go through from the beginning checking the sequence of ideas, supporting material and transitions to ensure all your information is in an effective and logical sequence. (And if you haven't made an outline yet download and use the blank one available from the link below.)
If you haven't got a speech outline already prepared ...
Use this printable blank speech outline template. It will make preparing your cue cards a breeze.
If your speech is being judged, find out what the evaluator will be marking you on. Check this standard speech evaluation form.
Do try your speech out loud and time it.
Remember to allow time for pausing, waiting for the audience to finish laughing before you begin talking again, and so on.
You may need to edit if it's too long and it's a lot easier to do that at this stage.
Once you have the length right for your time allowance, get in a couple of people whose judgment you trust to listen to you. Have them give you feedback on content, structure and delivery; paying particular attention to the introduction and the close.
Rework your speech if you need to.
When you're satisfied you have it the best it can possibly be, you're ready to prepare it for cue cards.
Each segment or part of your speech, from its introduction to conclusion, should be reducible to a key word or phrase. The phrase or keyword will act as a prompt triggering your memory for what it was you wanted to say.
Before you can write your cue cards you need to go through your speech outline and choose a word or phrase that best represents what each part is about.
Once you've finished you're ready to write up your cards using the 1-10 guidelines above.
For more on choosing and using keywords to effectively remember your speech check this page on how to memorize a speech.
Double check the effectiveness of each card as you write them to make sure you are using keywords or phrases that actually do trigger your memory.
This is also particularly important for links or transitions. Forgetting how you got from one piece of information to the next not only leaves you stranded but your audience as well.
NB. Be sure to note the names of important people, facts or processes too.
Do not be tempted to print or write the whole of your speech out, then cut it into bits and stick those bits onto pieces of cardboard.
I've seen it! It's not good. And worse, it will defeat your purpose entirely.
You'll finish with cramped notes that, as well as being difficult to read, stop you from freely interacting with your audience. You'll be head down reading!
You'll find a full page here on 'how to rehearse'.
It includes notes specifically on rehearsing using your cue cards as well as other valuable tips for delivering your speech successfully.
Now that you've completed your set of cards, please don't short change yourself by assuming you are fully prepared and ready for delivery.
To use them well you really do need to practice with them. Before you give your speech aim for at least three concentrated rehearsal sessions.