6 Techniques for Great Palm Cards

Palm cards might seem simple - but there's an art to creating effective palm cards for public speaking or debating.



Greta Thunberg isn't the first young person to be hailed as an environmental activist. In 1992, at age 12, Severn Suzuki raised money to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she was applauded for a speech to the delegates.


Severn's video has since become a viral hit, popularly known as "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes". In her 1992 speech, she said: “I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the hole in our ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it." Severn Suzuki doesn't deliver her powerful speech without the help of notes, but looking down at her notes doesn't stop her delivering a speech that "silenced the world" and gained her a place on the United Nations Environment Programme's Global 500 Roll of Honour. Having good palm cards for a speech is something that takes a debate to a new level when used effectively. Here are some of our tips for writing great palm cards:

  • Make your writing BIG! There's nothing worse than trying to read a palm card with tiny writing on it. It may not be a problem under normal circumstances, but when you're in front of an audience and perhaps feeling nervous, you need to be able to glance at your palm cards and read them easily.

  • Don't put too much on one card. You don't get extra points for having less palm cards, so use more cards and have just one point or idea on each, rather than several.

  • Learn the art of using dot points. Ideally, palm cards have dots points that summarise your speech. They are a reminder about your point that you then speak about in your own words. When students are beginning to debate, they will usually just write their whole speech word for word onto the palm cards. This is fine when children are learning, but as they become more experienced, encourage students to try using summary dot points as a reminder.

  • Add reminders to look up and pause. The act of turning to a new palm card should remind you to pause and look at the audience, but you can also add pictures or words on your palm cards that remind you to pause frequently and to look up at the audience.

  • Don't get too fancy. Palm cards are something only you will see. Don't use fancy fonts or coloured pens that are hard to read. Make your palm cards as clear and easy to read as possible.

  • Get your cards organised. We find that having your palm cards loose means you run the risk of dropping them and then having them out of order. Stapling palm cards makes them too hard to turn but using a ring to keep them together works well. Whether you keep your palm cards together or loose, make sure you number them. Just write on one side of palm cards as double-sided cards are confusing.

For more tips and tricks with palm cards, check out our Rise & Shine student and teacher handbooks. And for a dose of inspiration, check out Severn Suzuki's talk below and the way she speaks so powerfully while still consulting her notes too.