A topic that often comes up when I work with clients. Or with anybody doing speeches and presentations. Is how to memorise one’s speeches and presentations. Forgetting one’s content is one of the most common fears that people have with public speaking. Do you need to memorise your speeches in advance? Does it matter if you go off-script? Let’s find out.
How did you prepare your speech?
Everyone has their own style for preparing speeches and presentations. But fundamentally these styles can be divided into three. Firstly, there are speeches prepared using a script and said script is the speech. Secondly, there are visual speeches that are based on PowerPoint presentations or a series of visuals. Finally, there are speeches based on outlines and bullet points.
Which style to use is a matter of individual preference and each style has pros and cons. The first two styles will require more memorisation than the last one. However, if you work from outlines and bullet points, content mastery is needed. You’ll need to know your facts so that you can weave them into your speech while you expand on each bullet point. If you know a topic extremely well and it doesn’t require visuals. I recommend structuring your content around a series of bullet points only. Everything else can be added extempore as you deliver the speech or presentation.
A good structure will help you memorise
I once again saw the power of speech structure in action when delivering a speech last month. I used a storytelling structure to communicated a complex message vividly and creatively. There are many different ways in which a speech can be structured, from a chronology to storytelling to basing the structure around the key points of the speech. Whatever structure you use, it has to be so clear to you and your audience that understanding it is quick and easy. Avoid adding points or stories that don’t fit in with the structure you decided. Keep your structure logical, simple and as easy to follow as possible. Finally, don’t forget the objective you set out for your speech when you craft your structure.
Sentence structure and the words you use also matter. This is an advanced technique, but I’ve personally found that using ‘trigger words’ within sentence helps memorising complex passages. These words or expressions could be a little bit unusual and as such will stand out in your speech. Remembering them may trigger your memory into action, as the sentence or context into which the word is used will come back to you. Visual aids have the same effect, as a piece of information on one slide. Can help you recall an entire passage or the story behind it.
Don’t overdo repetition and rehearsals
While I would recommend every speaker to rehearse their speech a few times before they deliver it. I would strongly warn against overdoing it as it could be counterproductive. As I mentioned before, delivering a speech is different from delivering a show. Too perfect a delivery can seem unnatural, and may even prevent you from building a strong connection with your audience. Robotic speakers who rehearse on cue also lose one advantage over others. They lose the chance to spice-up their delivery based on what an earlier speaker may have said or a conversation they had earlier that day.
A good way to internalise the contents of a speech is to record it and to listen to the recording afterwards. The contents will seep into your mind, over the course of a day, or of several days as you spend time listening to the speech. This tactic is also far less time-consuming than full-blown rehearsals. True, you may not be able to rehearse your body language that way. But body language may depend on your audience and stage, two things you’ll only find out on the day.
The tips and techniques mentioned above are the ones I use when delivering my keynote speeches. When using slides, I often write notes under each slide to flesh it out a bit more. However, I never use these on the day and always aim to present without notes. Get in touch so that I can help you prepare a memorable keynote or presentation soon!