Remembering speeches can
be a very intimidating experience. There are many ways one can remember material
and I would like to focus on what I believe are the 4 common ways to remember
- Reading from complete
- Using Notes
- Using Visual Aids
Let's take a look at each
of these in detail.
1. Memorizing - In
my opinion, this is absolutely the worst way to keep track of material. People
are preoccupied with trying to remember the words to say and not the ideas behind
the words (or with the audience). As a result, normal voice inflection disappears.
With memorizing, mental blocks become inevitable. With memorizing it is not
a matter of "will" you forget; it's a matter of WHEN!
2. Reading from complete
text - Listening to someone read a speech or presentation is hated by most
people. People say, "If that's all they were going to do is read their speech,
I could have read it myself." I'm sure many of us have experienced this at least
once while attending a conference or two. Below are some reasons why I believe
people read poorly:
- The speaker loses normal
voice inflection because they lose touch with the ideas behind the words.
Listen for pauses, Natural speech is filled with pauses; unnatural speech
- The text isn't spoken
language - too often speakers write their speeches in "business language".
That is often hard to read, much less listen to.
- The speech isn't static
- the potted plant will probably move more. There is little movement, little
energy, little interest behind the lectern.
- There's no or little
eye contact - any eye contact is with the text, not the audience. To read
text while trying to maintain eye contact with the audience takes a lot of
- The speaker is scared
- many speakers read because they are afraid to try anything else. They know
reading will fail but at least it will fail with a small "f" rather than a
NOTE: Don't get me wrong;
there are times when speeches MUST be read. Many times it is necessary to read
policy statements or company announcements. Also, some speeches must be timed
right down to the second.
WHEN YOU HAVE TO READ!
If reading is absolutely
necessary, here are some suggestions:
- Pay attention to the
inflection in your voice - to sound natural, rehearse often, checking yourself
for pauses. Ask yourself if your words sound the way you would say them if
you weren't reading. Tape yourself and listen to your own voice. Take notes
where changes should be made with the inflection in your voice.
- When preparing your
written speech, say the words "out loud" first in order that your written
text will read closer to your speaking style. This will make it easier to
read and much easier to listen to. People often DO NOT write the same way
as they speak and this makes reading more difficult. If we use wording and
phrasing we normally use in our everyday language it will be easier to add
the correct voice inflection and tone. Annotate your text to indicate which
words to emphasize. Numbers are the easiest target words to say slowly with
emphasis on each syllable.
- One of the biggest problems
speakers face when reading text is that we often forget to use gestures. We
are so busy making sure we read the text we fail to communicate effectively
with our entire body. One thing we can do to help this is to "double space"
your typed text to leave room to add notes or cues about gestures and other
reminder type clues. We need to practice using this annotated text of our
speech so we can easily and smoothly react to these cues for our gestures
while at the same time correctly read the text. This does take some practice.
Some people do this very effectively.
I work with ministers who
do this extremely well, but they also practice a lot! Videotape yourself reading
the speech and then sit and watch the speech, making notes as to the gestures,
which could have been used. Add notes to your written text based on this review,
using notes or even pictures of the gestures to use and deliver the speech again,
trying this time to add gestures. After a little practice, this will become
- When we read speeches,
the amount of eye contact with our audience is usually less. In some cases,
people who read speeches have NO eye contact. To avoid this, first write like
you speak (see suggestion #2). When typing the text, use upper and lower case
letters. This will make it easier to read. TYPING EVERYTHING IN UPPPERCASE,
AS I HAVE DONE HERE, MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO READ> Don't have long paragraphs
or you will lose your place every time you look up. Start a new paragraph
every sentence or two. Also, have your text double-spaced. Some people even
so far as alternating the color of the text for each paragraph.
Use unstapled pages for
your text. Paper clip your pages and just before you begin, remove the paper
clip. As you prepare your text, keep in mind that you will have to handle these
pages and you want to do this smoothly and as quietly as you can. Do not have
part of a sentence begin on one page and continue onto the next page. End the
page with a complete sentence and paragraph.
During your pauses, smoothly
"slide" the page you just finished using to one side and continue with the text
on the next page. Do not pick up the page and place it behind or turn the page
over when done. This will be distracting and will bring attention to the fact
that you are reading. Avoid handling the pages as much as possible while you
With a lot of practice and
careful preparation, you can deliver a powerful speech, even when reading. Some
of the world's greatest speeches were read, but you can be assured, they weren't
reading them for the first time when delivering their speech to their audience.
Practice, practice, practice.
3. Using Notes -
This is the most common way for remembering material. Using notes is better
than reading since the speaker can have normal voice inflection and make more
effective eye contact. If your notes are on the lectern, you probably won't
move very far from them. If notes are in your hand, you probably won't gesture
Below are some suggestions
to consider if you decide to use notes:
- Use note cards. Include
quotes, statistics and lists you may need, NOT paragraphs of text. VERY IMPORTANT:
Number you note cards! (Just in case you drop them).
- Don't put too much information
on each note card or you will find yourself reading too much. Put only a few
words or key phrases.
- Leave your notes on
the lectern or table and move away occasionally. Don't be afraid to move away
from your notes and get out of your comfort zone. Too many speakers use the
lectern to hide behind and this restricts the effective use of your entire
- Practice using your
note cards. If you find yourself reading your note cards too much, this is
a sure clue you need to reduce the amount of written text on each card. Remember,
all you need are short phrases or key words, enough to "jog" your memory.
- Use pictures or picture
maps to guide yourself. Pictures help you to "visualize" the key points of
your speech. Use mental pictures as well to tell the story in your head. This
will take some creativity, but will be worth the effort.
4. Using Visual Aids
As Notes - Simple visual aids can effectively serve as headings and subheadings.
Speak to the heading. Say what you want to say and move on. If you forget something,
that's okay; the audience will never know unless you tell them.
Practice creating just a
few meaningful headings to use and practice using only these headings as your
"cues". This will take practice, but practicing using only these few words will
force you to better internalize your speech.
This has four important
- You don't have to worry
about what your are going to say next. Your visual aids provide you with your
"cues" of your next major idea or thought. All you need to do between ideas
is to use an effective transitional statement. (See my tips on using transitions).
- Having only a few key
words on your visual aid allows you to move around the room without the need
or feeling you need to go back to your notes. In fact, most inexperienced
speakers don't move around at all. Movement also helps you to relax and adds
energy to your presentations. Movement also allows the listeners to follow
you and pay closer attention to you and your message. Plan your movements
during your rehearsals. Decide where in your presentation it makes sense to
move. If you find yourself starting to sway from side to side, take one or
two steps and stop again, standing evenly on both feet. Keep your weight evenly
distributed on both feet. This will help you from swaying.
- You can have good eye
contact with your audience. You can look at your audience all the time while
speaking - except for that brief moment you look at your visual aid. But that's
okay since the audience will probably follow you and also look at your visual
aid. This will help the audience to "see" your message as well as "hear" your
message. The more you rehearse and the more you become familiar with your
visual aids, the easier it becomes.
- Your audience will feel
comfortable that you are on your planned track. Well designed visual aids
shows tha audience you DO have a plan and have properly prepared and are following
Keep in mind; your visual
aids do not have to be only word charts. They can contain diagrams, pictures
or even graphs.
When you use visual aids,
always introduce the visual aid BEFORE you show it using one of your transition
statements. You can even use the "looking back / looking forward" transition:
"Now that we have seen the ...let's now look at..."
Regardless of which method
you chose to use to remember your material, nothing will help you more that
proper planning and preparation. Remember to prepare, prepare, prepare!