Anybody Got a Copy of that Oath I Can Borrow?

Rule Number One: Always have notes with you when you’re speaking in public. Rule Number Two: Don’t forget you notes.

Well, too late now, Mr. Chief Justice. Like so many rookies at public speaking, you tried to wing it. And you blew it. big deal, right? Wrong. Once you look like you’re clueless at the podium, it sticks.

So, here’s how you can avoid the embarrassment (and the stigma):

1) Always have notes with you.

Always. Repeat after me, “I will always have notes with me. I will always have notes with me.”

If the John Roberts debacle didn’t burn that into your brain, here’s another reason. Notes are not a sign of weakness or that you’re unprepared. Just the opposite. Notes signal your audience that you are indeed prepared, that you took time enough to write out some logical points, and that you’ll finish on time. All signs of a veteran speaker.

Even the best of speakers can lose their train of thought. And let’s face it. A total derailment in front of any audience is a sure credibility killer.

2) Don’t forget your notes. Ever.

Whether you’re delivering remarks at the local Rotary or speaking at the Chief Executives Club of Boston, a well-placed Post-it on the bathroom mirror that says “Got your notes?” will save you a lot of embarrassment.

But life is cruel and, yes, you forgot your notes. What to do? On that extra blank piece of paper you always carry in your breast pocket or in your purse, jot down some reminders while your introduction is being made. Better safe than sorry.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice your remarks out loud at least three times. And always practice it in front of someone who will give you honest feedback. Don’t consider running through the words in your head as a form of “practice.” It’s not.

Videotape your practice sessions and review the tape with a critical ear. If you can’t videotape, make an audiotape. And don’t practice in front of a mirror. It’s too distracting.

There’s a good chance that Roberts will get to deliver the Oath of Office to another president during his time on the bench. Let’s hope we see some notes.