When I’m not coaching professionals to deliver dynamic presentations, I teach leadership communication at the Wharton School of Business. Every semester, before the big speech assignment, someone will ask, “Can I hold my notes?” My answer is always the same: “I hope not.”
After watching Daniel Hernandez (Gabrielle Giffords’ intern) at the memorial service last Wednesday give a speech without notes to thousands of people, including the President of the United States, I stood up in my living room and clapped for him. He was genuine, self-effacing and, above all, himself. Yes, he was nervous, and yes he stumbled on a few words, but that’s a small price to pay for a better connection with the audience. I think most of us would have had the inclination to take it up a few notches to impress the dignitaries in the house, and inclined to take that ubiquitous black notebook to the podium that all other speakers used.
That said, I can think of a time when the use of notes would have been ideal: the swearing in of Barack Obama by Chief Justice John Roberts. But that story is for another day.
If you missed it, check out the difference between Daniel’s remarks and Governor Jan Brewer, for example.
Key takeaway: The next time you need to persuade, encourage, push, or even deliver bad news, leave the notebook under your chair.