Yet far too many times, presenters -- novice and experienced alike -- resort to memorizing their material. Ironically, of all the preparation techniques for a presentation, memorization is the riskiest. Forget a word or phrase and that can derail your entire presentation as you struggle to remember what comes next.
ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH MEMORIZATION
Memorization makes it difficult to be really present with your audience. Since your mental energy is channeled into recalling what you've memorized, you have little or no bandwidth for engaging and interacting with your audience. Your focus is on not forgetting what you're supposed to say.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO INSTEAD OF MEMORIZE?
- Know your subject matter well. Be very clear on what you want to say, the organization of your remarks and the specific message you want to leave with your audience. Rehearse your delivery at least 5-6 times to internalize the content, flow and examples.
- Let go of perfection. I know when I craft a presentation, I work hard to come up with just the right words and phrases to get my points across. And so I get quite wedded to these specific words. But in the moment of the actual presentation, it's far better to not worry about finding the perfect words and instead free yourself up to be natural and focus on your audience. As long as you have rehearsed adequately, you'll be able to communicate your points clearly even if you don't use the "perfect" words. And remember, the audience never knew what your perfect words were anyway.
- Feel free to use notes to jog your memory. Presenters sometimes have the feeling that if they present with notes, they'll lose credibility. But in my experience, I've never seen an audience yet who objects to a presenter referencing (not reading verbatim) notes throughout the presentation.
- Trust in the power of connecting with the audience. If you are truly "out there" with your audience, sharing information with them and engaging in dialogue, you're not likely to forget key points because you will be feeding off their energy, interest and questions.
So leave memorization for the more mundane things you need to remember and both you and your audience will find your presentation more enjoyable.