One of the most common reasons people fear public speaking is that they blank out and forget their entire speech. I remember when I was competing on the speech team in high school, I did a speech on memory. In the middle of the speech during the competition, I blanked out and ended up saying something stupid like, “And it does this [blanked out, paused] for many reasons.”
Sometimes it feels like you can practice and practice and practice and when the moment comes that you need to remember your presentation, everything goes blank!
However, there are ways that you can fool proof your message so that the parts you actually have to memorize are minimal. You do this by incorporating triggers into your presentation. These triggers can be things like power point slides, props, and stories that you scatter throughout your speech.
What the triggers do is prompt you to talk about the next point in your presentation. The triggers also serve as a spring board for helping you remember what to say next. There are four primary ways to remember your presentation.
1. By Rote — Pure Memorization
This can work for presentations less than an hour, but then, my memory speech was only 15-20 minutes. So this doesn’t always work. And, if you’re teaching a six hour seminar, you’re going to have to find some other way to remember your presentation.
In fact, if you haven’t figured this out by now, pure memorization is actually the worst way to remember your presentation — there are no safe guards to protect you once you forget something.
The general consensus of the speakers I interviewed for Public Speaking Super Powers is that you need to know your material … not the exact way you will be presenting it.
2. Read a Full Written Version
People write out their speeches, but reading from the full written text can cause you to sound stiff and unnatural. Also, eye contact, a key component of engaging your audience is reduced, often to the point of nonexistence.
There is a definite skill to giving a presentation that you read. Read speeches most commonly occur in business settings (e.g., at board meetings or company meetings). If you have to read your speech, there are things you can do to help you sound natural.
Keep in mind the business tone may be necessary, but there may also be parts in your presentation that require the monotony to be broken! Of course, this topic can be a post all by itself, so I won’t go into it here.
3. Use Notes
This is basically a condensed outline form of your presentation from which you take your triggers. You can either have your notes on a single page or on note cards. It depends on if you’ll be giving your speech from a lectern or podium, or will be standing on a stage with nothing in front of you.
So that you don’t have to read your notes verbatim — they are there only to trigger your next point — highlight key points in a way that you can easily understood at a glance.
Of course, having notes does not mean that you do not need to practice your presentation.
4. Visual Aids and Props
This is the smoothest way to use triggers. When you let your visuals and props prompt you on your next point, your audience may not even notice that you’re using notes at all.
Tell your audience a story about the image you’re showing. You can also let your visuals and props do the talking for you. You can post your outline on the screen and say that it’s because it will help your audience stay on track with you! Do this with panache and you’re in like Flynn!
Work with creating mental images of the points you are trying to make. This will help you sound more natural and more “impromptu” with your audience. When you sound natural, you sound genuine.
Use one or more of these techniques to remember your presentation. Use various ways to “trigger” your memory to say what needs to be said. Use presentation slides to lead you through your speech as you place keywords on the screen.