10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Use Presenter Notes

Tip # 2 – always use presenter notes!

The image above shows one of my slides, and the slide’s presenter notes. I LOVE presenter notes! I mentioned one handy use for the presenter notes section in Tip #1 – using them to store the outline of your presentation while you customize your slides.

But the presenter notes section really shines if you actually use it during your presentation. Ever watched someone give a presentation using a laptop and PowerPoint … but they also had a bunch of paper notes that they shuffled through and read? There’s really no need to do that … if you use the presenter notes part of your software.

Both PowerPoint and Keynote have this feature. Basically, I put the stuff I really want to say in the presenter notes box of each slide, rather than actually on the slide itself.

Doing this allows me to use the actual slide to accompany the presentation … rather than allowing my slide to BE the actual presentation (we’ll get to that idea a little later on). I’ll find an image, or a couple of words, that highlight the main points of my actual presentation, and put them on the slide, rather than my whole outline for that point.

Then I use the presenter notes as a memory aid during my presentation. If there’s a phrase I want to say a certain way – I put that phrase in the presenter notes box. If there’s a number that I can’t remember … it goes in the presenter notes box.

To me, that presenter notes box is one of the most useful tools in Keynote (my presentation software of choice).

How about you? Do you use the presenter notes box? What do you use it for? Please share!

  • http://twitter.com/tashrow Tasha Saecker

    Thanks for the tip, I’ve never used the presenter notes and have been using paper notes as I move away from any words on my slides. I will have to try it and see if it works for me.

  • Aubreymm

    I rely heavily on the notes section, although I don’t know how to display them to myself on the computer without showing them to the audience on the screen. Is this possible? I still print the notes.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yep – there’s a presenter view that will show the notes on your screen, but
    just the slides on the overhead screen. Pretty handy!

  • http://blog.logixml.com Will Marlow

    I’m going to have to bookmark your presentation series for referral later.

  • http://twitter.com/adamstjohn Adam StJohn Lawrence


    I’m going to disagree for once. I don’t use the note view for several reasons.

    Firstly, because I rarely use slideware – I think it distracts from the message. 😉 But now and again I do resort to it – without notes.

    Firstly, having the note view on means I have to have the computer set up in front of me, within reading range. This means a podium or a table between me and the audience – and this is a barrier. So I usually have my laptop on the floor, somewhere at the side of the stage. It’s there if I need to glance at it and see which slide I am on, but it’s not distracting me – or my audience.

    Using the notes view restricts my mobility. When I am presenting, wild horses couldn’t keep me on the stage. I need to be down in the middle of the audience, entering into dialogue with individuals and making things more interesting by presenting different ideas from different parts of the room. With my notes all on my laptop, how can I do that?

    If I am reading notes from the screen, my eyes are not on my audience. Worse, they are on something that my audience cannot see. That is annoying at the travel agent or the bank, and it’s annoying in a presentation. I need my eyes to keep contact with my audience, to show my passion.

    Finally, I don’t need the notes, because I know what I want to say. I only present on things I feel passionately about, and each of my slides (which have almost no text) is an illustration for a tale I know well. If I have facts and figures, I do my best to remember them (rehearsal is vital). If I can’t manage, then I have a card in my pocket which I can look at “to make sure I get this just right”. Or I write one note on the top of each finger – an old stand-up trick.

    In summary, I think the onscreen note view adds to the barriers between me and the audience. There are enough of those already using slideware. I don’t need one more.



  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Great points, Adam! And glad you’re disagreeing, too. For the most part, I
    really do agree with you – no notes is definitely best. You’ll be happy to
    know that a future point is all about rehearsing.

    Interesting too – when I wrote that, I was more thinking about the people I
    see at library conferences, dealing with their slides (with an outline
    view), turning paper pages (usually their whole written-out presentation),
    etc. For them, I really do think a notes view is much better – one less
    thing for them to deal with.

    I tend to do both – presentations that I’m really familiar with need no
    notes. Those I can give off-the-cuff, walk around, etc. New presentations
    though … I tend to have notes. Not generally “read the whole script” note,
    but more phrases I want to remember, transitions, etc. One of my slides
    might say “tell this story here.”

    So – good stuff.

  • Nina Exner

    You just cleared up the whole meaning of Notes for me! It looks like this mode is disabled in non-dual-output computers, so I never noticed it because I always develop my PPTs on my desktop then present on my laptop.

  • Alissa

    this is a great series of tips! I tried using notes the other day for a library program, but could not get it to display correctly when I projected it. The computer told me I needed 2 monitors in order to this – any idea how to get around this?

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    I haven’t done this using a PC and Powerpoint for a long time, but yeah – you DO need a PC that can do Dual Monitor – the LCD projector acts as the second monitor/screen. I’m guessing you’d do that via control panel settings.

  • Mickey Schafer

    I am not all the fond of power point, but have recently begun using a concept mapping program, Wisdomap.com, that has a right nav bar for notes (including some highlighting options) and a media box for adding pictures, videos, links. I LOVE the notes bar — the notes are really for the audience/students as permanent parts of the presentation. But they help me keep on track as well and eliminate the need for other notes. I also like the ‘presentation’ function in Wisdomap that lets the presenter manipulate the order in which map nodes appear. This is great control so the audience isn’t meandering through the whole map when just one section is under discussion.