Why You Should Not Memorize the Body of Your Speech Or Presentation

At a workshop I was holding in Toronto, one of the participants proceeded to deliver part of a rote, memorized persuasive presentation. This man, who I will call Bill, told us that he was a ‘professional’ speaker and that his presentations lasted 90 minutes. Luckily for us, he was only allowed to speak for 8-9 minutes; however, it took just 5 minutes of his memorized script for the attention of the group to begin to fade, as their eyes glazed over.

What was so interesting about Bill’s delivery was that at one point, he forgot a word. He then looked up to the ceiling, trying to capture the word. It was at that moment, and at that moment only, that he sounded and looked natural.

If you memorize your presentation or your speech, you are bound by the memorized word. Public speaking has, as one of its two fundamentals terms, the word speaking. The premise is that you are to talk to your audience, not at them. If you deliver a memorized script, you are not talking to or communicating with your listeners, you are performing. In that sense, you are acting.

The difficulty with memorization is two-fold:

1. If you forget where you are, you will have much more difficulty recapturing your thoughts. With memorization, there is a different thought process involved than in speaking around notes, a PowerPoint presentation or slides. In the latter, you have bullet points pointing you in the right direction. If you forget where you are when playing the piano, for example, it is quite possible that your fingers will continue to play even if your mind goes blank. This only happens, however, if you know the musical selection inside and out. Why the same does not hold true for memorization in speaking, however, is because the words will not come out of your mouth if you have forgotten what comes next.

2. The other problem with memorization is that you do not sound natural. Your delivery is much like that of the telesales people who phone you with their memorized script, trying to sell you something. What is fascinating about their approach is that they have no desire to communicate with you. Their role is to spit out a pile of words, trying to force you to listen and never once showing an interest in your response. Trying to politely end the conversation is near to impossible; and, sometimes the only way to tell them you are not interested is to hang up. Much the same is happening to the delivery of the memorized speech or presentation. It does not allow for your awareness of your audience’s reaction to you.

There are times when memorization is a must in public speaking. The body of your speech or presentation is not one of them.

Why Be Pre-Occupied? “Just Being Present” – Part 2

Being in the lion’s pit of life is interesting at times, isn’t it? This is real tongue-in-cheek stuff. One day or even one afternoon can present so many opportunities to become waylaid with worries, fears and anxieties… enough to last the rest of the day, and into the next, easy!

But, this is where control over the mind and our mental processes can come to our rescue.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading an extraordinary piece of wisdom titled, “Practicing awareness in everyday life.”[1] It’s all about the subject of awareness; the skill of staying in the present. The author says it’s the most important skill that we could acquire.

The issue is about how much of our awake time we spend partially or completely distracted from our present activities, because we’re focused on the past or future–”neither of which exist.”

As we experience life, there are so many things that have just gone or are about to hit us that consume our ordinary thinking. This leaves us drained of the attention we could place in the present. No wonder we struggle to listen to people properly half the time.

This subject is all about staying ‘in the truth.’ It’s about sticking with our senses and what they tell us to feel, in the moment. We’re told to focus, particularly around decision-making, on what we’re actually thinking, feeling, saying and doing–that is, we need to be intimately aware of ourselves.

Even simple tasks such as brushing our teeth should require all our ‘manual’ attention. The objective here is to train the mind to think manually, and resist our preponderance to go into mental autopilot. We should “practise awareness until we can operate ‘automatically on manual’, so we can choose to ‘manually go to automatic’.”

What this means is once we’re trained to be aware at will, we then have the ability to become more competent over our attitudes; we become ‘attitudinally competent.’ We can then screen out the unhelpful emotional distractions, scheduling our focus on these for times when we wish to deliberately reflect on the past and plan for the future. We effectively hold the moment (emotionally) and deal with it at a predetermined time later.

We should become adept at being a silent observer of ourselves, being attuned to our thoughts, feelings, words and actions. There is no more basic a goal for a person to have than to become self-aware, and that continually so.

We must resist allowing our minds to wander and meander in undisciplined ways; sure, when we watch a movie and want to relax, a free mind is fine; but truly, do we think an unfocused mind dribbling through the immediate past or near future is helpful? It can’t possibly be and “running of ‘old part-fiction movies’ is insanity.”

Reflection and planning must be restricted to “fully truthful” aspects. We need to determine what truth there is, sifting out the innuendo and assumptions.

So, let’s get to work on not being pre-occupied mentally and simply stay in the moment practicing awareness. Even during so-called stressful times, we’ll benefit from the fresh perspective and strength that comes as a result.

Business Presentations – How to Sell From the Platform

Business presentations are essentially about selling. Selling ideas: maybe you get people to change their behaviour, or give you an investment, or reverse a policy. Either way; getting an audience of business executives to buy requires a clear argument, and that requires a clear structure. Read on to get the formula.

Selling ideas in a presentation setting is much like selling face to face, your audience goes through a process of being dissatisfied, they recognise the benefits of change, and then you point them in the direction of a solution.

Taking clients through this sequence requires a highly structured process. One that is not well understood by many business presenters, though those that do understand and use it, sell more, quicker, and with less stress.

The process of selling complex ideas via a presentation is a three step system. In step one, the presenter should spend time developing the problem, in step two the solution is explained, and finally step three involves making specific recommendations and a call to action. Here’s what each step looks like in more detail.

    1. Develop the problem. This stage is essential because you first have to make sure that the audience understands why they need help. Isn’t it the case that if you offered cough medicine to someone who was well, they’d be likely to refuse it? But point out that they look a bit feverish and you may have a buyer. That’s exactly what you are doing in this stage; metaphorically pointing out that your audience might be ill. How you do it is to use case studies, examples and data to get agreement, both on the types and size of problems in your chosen topic.
    2. Show the direction of the solution. Note I have said direction of the solution, you don’t want to give away all the answers so that they can take your advice without paying for it. So your solution should provide value, but have a few critical implementation steps missing. Also it’s important to explain the benefits. Make sure the audience knows what they will gain by using your solution.
    3. Provide a call to action. Make sure you audience knows what to do next. Is it to go to your website? Then don’t leave it to chance, have your URL printed on paper and handed to the audience as they leave the room.

Additionally following this flow will make your presentation easier to build. Simply take the first heading, let’s call it “industry problems”, and write out 2-3 key points, then do the same for the other two sections. Finally under each point provide evidence to back up your argument.

Selling doesn’t need to be tough, like everything in life you just need the paint by numbers formula. So now you have it what are you waiting for, get going!