A speech manuscript that won’t let you down: here’s what it should look like

A speech manuscript that won't let you down: here's what it should look like

The biggest fear of most speakers: forgetting what you wanted to say during the speech. Although good preparation and these rhetoric tips against blackouts can help against this.

Most importantly, this helps: a clean speech manuscript that is written like this,

  • that it gives you security during the presentation
  • is easy to read
  • Improved their lecture style by annotations and markings.

The rhetoric trainers of Baber Consulting from Stuttgart have here a Checklist compiled of what the ideal speech manuscript looks like.

Manuscript or index cards? Not a matter of faith, but a matter of appropriateness

At some point in rhetoric seminars the discussion always comes up whether index cards or manuscript – or for the really tough ones: nothing at all – are better. People like to pretend that there is a definite solution.

Only: This is cheese.

First, the choice between index cards or manuscript is a Type thing. One speaker gets along better with cards, the other with slips of paper.

Second, it is depending on the speech. Namely:

  • The nature of the speech: Is it a speech, a presentation or a moderation? A manuscript would harm a (short) natural moderation, while it can be useful for a longer speech.
  • of the equipment of the speech placeInform yourself in advance whether bspw. a lectern exists. If not, you are lost with a bulky manuscript. You have to hold it with both hands – that’s it for gestures, which are crucial for successful persuasion.

Ask yourself once the question:

"What is better for ME to talk with: using keywords or using phrased sentences??"

If you are more comfortable with key words, use index cards (although this also works with manuscripts). If you prefer written sentences, you definitely need a speech manuscript. Otherwise, you have Mount Everest of index cards in your hands.

Test both variants at home in order to get the maximum power out of your oratorical skills, and then decide.

What does the ideal speech manuscript look like??

Good rhetoric trainers say: a mixture of recommendations that apply to everyone and what gives the individual speaker confidence. Because the most important thing is to feel good about yourself when you give a speech. Otherwise your speech will automatically fail because you yourself are not convinced of yourself and your abilities.

And this is what the recommendations look like for everyone:

  • For each sentence of your speech, set a bullet point. This way you will automatically have only the one sentence in mind that you are about to pronounce. Suddenly losing the connection becomes improbable.
  • This is how the text should be formatted: Flat type. Arial, 16 or 18 point. It is important that it is legible for you from a certain distance. This means that a quick glance at the note must be enough to completely grasp the sentence. Arial works well for this; size should depend on your eyes.
  • Line spacing: 1.5 cm. This makes it more comfortable to grasp and read than standard spacing.
  • Mark the words in the sentence that should be accented. by bold print. Thus you recognize immediately, on which you must put your vocal attention. But do not mark too much! One or two words per sentence are enough, because they should be the core of the sentence.
  • Mark pauses. by a red line. Thus your lecture gets peace.
  • Highlight special features. This can be a gesture or a picture you want to put on, or even changing the PowerPoint slide.
  • Number the pages. If your manuscript falls down, you can sort it immediately.
  • Make footnotes for essentials. It has nothing to do with the speech. But if you e.g. mentioning a number, but not being able to answer the question about the origin of this number, makes you look quite incompetent. So: footnotes for all relevant (d. h. (quoted or referenced) content.

By the way, these recommendations also apply to the keyword collection and index cards. With those you should note that the paper is strengthened – thus not hanging down or can be abused by you as a toy.

Extra rhetoric tip for index card users: it’s best to use Moderation cards in DinA5 format.


A good speech manuscript is the be-all and end-all of convincing rhetoric. Not only because it contains everything the speaker needs to know in order not to lose the thread or his credibility.

But because it gives you personal peace of mind and (self-) security. Because everything is neatly recorded on paper.

Provide your manuscript with the right formatting and annotations, respectively. Highlight your presentation style. How to make your presentation more lively.

Are you more of an index card speaker or a manuscript speaker?? Why? Put it in the comments!

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