At my local Toastmasters club tonight one of our newer members asked me how I memorised speeches. Now that’s an intriguing question especially for me since I don’t normally think consciously about “memorising” memorising speeches at all. When I questioned him further on why he wanted to know, he said that he wanted to deliver interesting and informative talks that would be entertaining AND would motivate his audience to visit his upholstery shop.
My advice was as follows:
- Start with a clear outcome – know why you are speaking and what you want your audience to do as a result of your talk. Having a clear goal will serve as a powerful compass for your creative unconscious and help you create an appropriate narrative “on the fly”. Once you learn to trust this process, giving speeches becomes a lot more fun for you and your audience.
- Set yourself realistic milestones. I’ve been speaking in public for more than 30 years so I have learned a few tricks along the way and have developed a lot of self belief about my ability to speak without notes. Start my working with a an abbreviated script and then , each time you speak, cut down your notes a little at a time until you have proven to yourself that you can speak with just key words or bullet points on index cards.
- Don’t be too self critical, particularly to begin with. It’s all too easy to remember what you forgot to mention but it’s often much harder to notice what was good about your presentation. Learning to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses will build your confidence, squeeze out your errors, and grow you skill much faster than focusing on your shortcomings.
- Experiment with different memory systems. For example the great Greek orators understood the power of storyboarding. They would divide their speak up into key segments and then assign a mental image to each section. They would then link these images together in a sort of mental chain or sequence. It is much easier to memorise a sequence of images than a word filled script, yet each image provides the key to unlock your memory to the verbal content surrounding each theme. In modern times, Well chosen images displayed on a PowerPoint can help the audiences memory as well as your own.
If you any other suggestions, please let me know and I’ll happily share them with the rest of the on-line community. Just post a comment below.