Thursday, September 11, 2008



Teachers, trainers and presenters are often battled with difficulties in delivering presentations due to lack of adequate expertise in usage of cue cards. Cue cards often make or break the presentations. The research article has taken the case study of Robert where he failed to prove himself as a trainer during employment interview as he did not use cue cards during presentation. The merits, precautions, stages and tips for cue cards are highlighted in this research article. It also dwelt at length about the types of presentations and the techniques to be used during presentation. It has focused on an action exercise where the audience can involve and learn the preparation of cue cards. At the end it concluded that cue cards are clue cards and these will play a crucial role in future also.

KEY WORDS: Case Study of Robert, What are Cue Cards? Merits of Cue Cards, Precautions, Types of Presentations, Tips During Presentation, Stages of Cue Cards, Tips for Cue Cards, Action Exercises, Conclusion.



Robert applied for the post of corporate trainer and was called for demonstration. He was given with a few topics where he could choose one of the topics and prepare thoroughly in one week in advance and had to deliver demonstration of the topic he chose. He prepared thoroughly by going to various search engines and by referring several books on the topic. And he converted the content into an article and sent it to a famous magazine that within less than 24 hours had accepted the article and confirmed the publication of the article. Robert felt very happy with his preparation. And he was confident of giving the demonstration.

At last, on the D-day he delivered the demonstration of his chosen topic extempore. Robert was so confident that he would please the panel of judges who assessed his demonstration. After the completion of the demonstration one of the panel judges asked Robert the reasons for not using power point presentation and Robert said that he was comfortable with extempore speech. Subsequently as a selection procedure, Robert was given another topic by the panel members who asked him to prepare with in ten minutes and deliver the presentation on impromptu topic. Robert, as usual, was confident of the topic and he prepared bulleted points on a rough sheet given to him and entered the room and delivered the demonstration extempore as it was impromptu speech. After the completion of demonstration, Robert was asked why he did not use cue cards during presentation. Robert replied by saying that he was comfortable without cue cards and also he was confident of delivering the speech without any aids. He left the interview room and the panel of judges said that Robert would be informed about the results after a week. When the results came in, to his surprise, Robert was not selected for the post of Corporate Trainer. Robert asked the selection committee for the areas for improvement in case he lacked something. The head of the panel members said that everything was fine but he did not deliver power point presentation in the first demonstration and the in second demonstration he did not use cue cards.

From the above case study it was clear about the importance and significance of power point presentations and cue cards as this play a crucial role in this technology savvy world. In this context, let us know what cue cards are?


Cue cards are like hint cards, prompt cards and direction cards that provide clues to the presenters or trainers or teachers at the time of presentations or speeches. Let us look at few of the definitions of cue cards from various sources.

“a card , unseen by the audience, carrying dialogue, lyrics, etc. as an aid to a television performer”.

A large card held out of the audience’s sight, bearing words or dialogue in large letters as an aid for a speaker or actor chiefly in television broadcasting.

These cue cards are used by news readers in television and actors in film industry which are held out by someone who is not seen by the camera. Some people also call cue cards as idiot cards.

Cue cards were originally “invented” when Barney McNulty, a CBS page and former military pilot, was asked to write ailing actor Edd Wynne’s script lines on large sheets of paper to help him remember his script. Barney volunteered for this duty because his training as a pilot taught him to write very quickly and clearly. Barney soon saw the necessity of this concept and formed the company “Ad Libs.”

To overcome some of the short comings and also to improvise the cue cards teleprompters came in which is read by the actors in front of camera. A teleprompter is an electronic device used primarily to display text and cues for on-air newscasters and other professional talents. However, many of the teachers, trainers and presenters still use cue cards because of several advantages.


• Aids as a memory device to the presenter.
• Provides a kind of confidence and comfort to the presenter.
• Helps in staying focused on the key contents. It is human tendency to go off the track during the course of delivering speech. Cue cards check the presenter to be on the right track and on the smooth track.
• Minimizes human mistakes which usually happen when depended on memory.
• Provides chronological and systematic approach to presentation.
• If there are any problems in verbal cues the cue cards will set right any irregularities and misunderstandings during presentation.
• Helps in maintaining proper pauses during speech.
• Provides flexibility for the presenter by allowing both the presenter to speak and also the listeners to absorb and assimilate the contents smoothly and easily.
• It is rightly said that a picture is worth hundred words. The cue cards have tremendous effect on the minds of the audience.
• It eliminates usage of fillers like “um, ha, he, ok,” etc.,

Although there are plenty of merits in usage of cue cards there are certain areas where we have to take certain precautions and the same is mentioned below.


There are certain precautions to be observed while usage of cue cards. Write only one side of the cue cards and do not write on both sides as it will not have clarity and also it diverts the attention of the audience. Excessive looking at the cue cards loses the eye contact with the audience and it leads to loss of interest towards the presentation. Ensure that the cue cards are short and precise and do not make lengthy. And also make sure that there is right coordination and synchronization between the cue cards and delivery of presentation.

In this context, let us look at styles and types of presentations and the tools and techniques during presentation.


There are three kinds of presentations. They are impromptu presentation; prepared and read presentation; and the presentation in which there is conversation with the audience with cue cards. In the case of impromptu presentation, lot of stress is laid on memory and it is indeed stressful. Sometimes it loses its focus from the audience as the speaker concentrates on the memorized stuff. In the case of prepared and read presentation although it is good it may not be effective as it loses eye contact with the audience and results in boredom and monotony. In the third type of presentation the audience is very much actively involved in the presentation as there are cue cards, interaction, questioning and participation. This is the best of all the three types of presentations and cue cards play a crucial role in this presentation.


For any presentation to be successful there are certain tools and techniques by which one can reach and impress the audience. Every presentation will have introduction, body and summary. And the time allotted to the same can be; 10 per cent of time towards introduction, 80 per cent towards body and 10 percent towards summary. The time mentioned is an indicator and can be flexible depending on the topic and also on the profile of the audience. Having decided the time for each segment, let us know that there are always three segments among the audience. The first segment does not know anything about topic of the presentation, the second segment knows little about the topic and the third segment knows the topic fully. The introduction and the summary part is to be focused on the segments who do not know and who know little on the topic and the body of the presentation is to be focused on the segment who are experts on the topic. If this strategy is followed the presentation would balance all segments of the audience.

Sergeant Major said, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, just tell them and tell them what you told them” this is all about the any type of presentation. At the introductory part, the presenter should tell the theme and idea or theme of the topic and highlight the key points at the body part and at the end should summarize what was presented succinctly. During the presentation the presenter should focus on three aspects such as; the self, content and audience. Usually presenters fail in this area as few presenters are over sensitive about the audience forgetting about himself/herself and on the content. Some presenters focus too much on content not on audience and not on himself/herself. And few presenters focus on himself/herself forgetting on the audience and also the content. Therefore, the right presenter should focus on the audience, content and on self equally.

During presentation, the presenter should focus on the entire audience equally by maintaining eye contact with all. If the audience is huge, then it is advisable to fix one person in each side of the audience as a point and keep shifting his eye ball movement equally in different directions so that the audience feels that the presenter is talking to all. Never gaze at a particular individual for a longer as it causes discomfort to the individual. In a nutshell, never look at an individual for more than 4 seconds. The ideal focus on an individual should be between 2 to 4 seconds and then keep shifting eye ball movement from one person to another. And also for presenters who are beginners, it is advisable to deliver one sentence by looking at one individual and another sentence with another person and so on. When it is practiced in this way then the presenters will become successful professional presenters. And finally do not stand in one place and deliver the presentation. On the other hand, move freely in the room and deliver as it looks lively and interesting.


There are three stages of cue cards such as making cue cards; preparing speech as per the cue cards; and writing and rehearsing cue cards. While making cue cards ensure that each idea is put in each card, the letters are bigger than the normal size, use only one side of the cue card for better clarity, number it chronologically and finally add emotions to make it effective and efficient. While preparing the speech for the cue cards ensure that the flow is logical, allocate time for structure and delivery of the contents and speak louder for your feedback. Taking feedback helps in checking your pitch levels at the time of presentation and helps in delivering better presentation. While writing cue cards make sure that different coloured cue cards are used for each activity such as for main idea one type of coloured cue card, for supporting idea another coloured cue card, for quotations another coloured cue card and for transition a separate coloured cue card and finally for summary a different coloured cue card is used. Each color of cue card represents each stage of presentation. After having done entire work then it is time to rehearse the cue cards for effective presentation. Each and every stage is equally important in bringing out cue cards.


1. Always keep number of points per slide 4 to 5.
2. Keep cue cards in point form.
3. For better visibility of cue cards keep the font size large enough so that audience at a far distance can see and understand the contents.
4. Keep the background of the cue cards neutral.
5. Don’t decorate cue cards.
6. Avoid adding uninteresting information.
7. And finally flow must be natural from one cue card to another.


Ask two or three volunteers to come forward from the audience and ask them to name any one topic of their choice and give them white sheets to write the topic and tell them to write the key points related to their chosen topic. Let other members also watch but not to disclose the key points related to the topic. Once the volunteers wrote the key points in skeleton format and then ask other members among the audience to add few more key points on the same topic which are meaningful and add value to the topic. And then ask them to rearrange the key points in a chronological order and then make a mnemonic device. Make it as precise as possible and it should work as a trigger to the mind of the presenter. And also ask the volunteers to make cue cards from the key points.

If the above exercise is done number to times it helps the audience to unlock their hidden creative ideas as well as encourage their thoughts chronologically and finally preparing cue cards effectively and efficiently.


To sum up cue cards are the clue cards for both presenters and audience. Although the technology is changing rapidly and other electronic devices are inundated with much better benefits than cue cards, the role of cue cards can neither be underestimated nor undermined in the years to come. We can therefore, conclude convincingly that cue cards are indeed clue cards for any presentation.


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