In high school, you may have been encouraged to memorize your speech verbatim, however when out on the speaking circuit, this is not a good idea. You need speak authentically to get your message hear and remembering by rote often saps that passion and authenticity out of your voice. Whether you are speaking locally in Long Beach, or to the far flung corners of the world, you should be speaking about what you know.
That said, you may get caught up in the moment and forget to mention key points along the way. What follows are four ways you can prompt your memory by incorporating triggers into your presentation. These tips will help you keep the flow, as well as the passion and authenticity, when you speak.
Triggers prompt you to talk about the next point in your presentation. The triggers also serve as a spring board to help you remember what to say next.
1. Read a full written version -- with finesse
To prepare for your presentation, you may have written out your speech. But, reading from the text exclusively can cause you to sound stiff and unnatural. Also, reading non-stop reduces eye contact, a key component of engaging your audience.
There is a skill to giving a read presentation. 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 more natural.
Keep in mind the business tone may be necessary, but there may also be parts in your speech that require the monotony to be broken.
There are many techniques for making it easier to read a speech that allows you to look away from the text and make eye contact with your audience. Here are just a few:
- Print in large type and highlight key passages.
- Memorize key portions so you can look away.
- Create an outline and bring only the key passages to read.
3. Use notes
Notes are much less than the full written text. Usually your notes are an outline of your presentation, with key triggers standing out. You can either have your notes on a single page or on note cards -- it depends on whether you'll be giving your speech from a lectern or podium, or will be standing on a stage with nothing in front of you.
Make sure your notes include your key point (or triggers) in big bold type so they can be easily understood at a glance.
But remember: Having notes does not mean that you do not need to practice your presentation1
3. Visual aids and props
The smoothest way to use triggers in your speech is to incorporate them into the presentation of the speech. When you let your visuals and props prompt you for your next point, your audience may not even notice that you're using notes at all.
Work with creating mental images of the points you are trying to make. That way you can show an image on the screen that prompts you on what to say next. 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 next 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 or images on the screen.
NOTE: Are you a Long Beach based speaker? Contact me to have an interview with you published in this column.