Articles for Association Use


I cannot count how many times I have been asked, “Am I supposed to memorize my presentation?”


My standard — and slightly confusing — answer is, “No … and yes … but mostly no.” Confused? Let me explain. Memorizing your entire presentation is not recommended, nor is it reasonable. 


Sure, I get it. You assumed people memorize their presentations or once upon a time someone told you that is the way it is done. I assure you it is not. 


Memorizing a presentation verbatim, especially a long presentation, takes too much time and is nearly impossible. And when you couple this with the fact that most of us go about in the wrong way to begin with, then the likelihood of your success is low.


If somehow you are successful at memorizing your presentation, when you deliver it, it is going to be rather lifeless. The odds are high that your delivery will be monotone and lack changes in inflection, tone, and pace.


But let’s say you are able to memorize it and learned to deliver it well. Great, right? No, it is not, and here’s why. When it comes time to present your talk to your audience, your adrenaline will be coursing through you, and you will not be as relaxed as you were when you were practicing in your living room. Consequently, you will forget a word, phrase, or statistic. And that is when your brain will go into hyper mode, trying to locate what you forgot. Most often, it will not locate the missing data, and you will be lost. And when you get lost, you will get flustered or nervous, and that benefits no one.


So, what do you do? The answer is simple. You memorize three things:

1. Your attention-grabbing opening

2. Your compelling conclusion, and 

3. The topics of the points you want to talk about in the body of your presentation.


Why these? Well, your opening and closing are the usually most critical elements of your presentation. The opening grabs your audience’s attention, and your closing calls them to action. Because of this importance, you want these portions of your presentation to be powerful – not necessarily long, but powerful. And since they are usually brief, they are easy to memorize.


And there is an additional benefit to memorizing your opening. Since you are likely to be most nervous when beginning your presentation, knowing what you are going to say and how you are going to deliver it helps ease your nerves.


This brings us to the points you want to make. When you develop your talk, you will flesh out your talking points. And by rehearsing your talk, you will get to know what you want to say about each of these points. But do not try to memorize every word. Simply remember the topic of each point, and when it comes time to present, you just have to remember the topics and then deliver the essence of each.


You might be thinking, at this point, that there is something you need to memorize — long quotes or passages. Well, no, you do not. Because you are quoting what someone else said or wrote, you want to be exact, I agree. And this is where a notecard comes in handy.


In large type, print the quote on the card. When it comes time to deliver it, read it from the card. And this part is essential; be sure to practice this when rehearsing because, even though you are reading, you want to deliver it as originally intended.


As I wrap this up, remember this; not having to memorize your entire presentation does not mean you do not have to rehearse it. Rehearsing is a key factor in the difference between someone who gets up and speaks to an audience and someone who connects with their audience and serves them well. Strive to be the latter.

Peter George Speaker and Public Speaking CoachPeter George


With a wealth of experience as a veteran speaker, public speaking coach, and acclaimed author, Peter has assisted over 300,000 executives, consultants, and professionals across 50 countries in harnessing the power of public speaking to increase their impact, influence, and income.


Peter’s notable achievements include authoring the six-time award-winning book, “The Captivating Public Speaker,” and pioneering the AMP’D Framework™, a methodology designed to empower speakers in crafting compelling messages tailored to their audiences.


Drawing from personal triumph over speech impediments like a lisp and stutter, Peter believes everyone should be able to effectively communicate their advice, expertise, and experiences.

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