How to Make Note Cards for a Speech

Things You'll Need

  • Index or recipe cards
  • Pen with blue or black ink
  • Three highlighters, each in a different color

The best way to take your public speaking to the next level is to move away from memorizing your speeches and to speak extemporaneously, referring to memory-jogging notes as you deliver your address. According to both and, saying a speech from notes can be nerve-wracking, but speakers who use this approach appear more personable and interesting than those who rely on rote memorization. Use headings and colors to organize your note cards, and you'll be well on your way to delivering speeches that command audience attention.

Develop the flow of your speech. According to, you should make sure that you're happy with your content and facts, and ensure that ideas connect logically. You should also time your speech to make sure that it isn't too long or too short. Write your address out in full prose, or make a rough outline with bullet points that you can talk from. Either way, you'll be reducing the content for your note cards later.

Break your speech into major topics, using a pen to mark where individual topics begin and end. If you wrote your speech in prose, suggests that paragraph divisions show where ideas begin and end, and can provide guidance for how to break things up. If you wrote an outline, it should already be clear where your main points and subtopics are.

Write your note cards. Each of the sections you defined in the previous step should take up one card. Write main ideas in slightly larger print, and place supporting ideas and facts in short bullet points below. Write transitional words and phrases that will help you to progress smoothly between main ideas on one card and topics written on separate cards.

Number your note cards as you go, writing each card's number clearly in the upper right-hand corner.

Use highlighters to color-code the information on each card. Choose a color combination that makes sense for you. For example, you can highlight main ideas in one color, important facts in another color, and transitional words and phrases in a third, separate hue.


Leave lots of space between lines of text on your cards. Practice your speech with your cards until you feel comfortable using them. Only write on one side of your cards. Writing on both sides forces you to remember when to flip and when to go to the next card, while writing on one side means you only have to remember when to go to the next card. You're less likely to make a mistake and mix up your cards if you only have one action to worry about.