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QuickBites: How to Keep Your Brain From Screwing Up Your Talks

In a previous episode, you learned that you shouldn’t try to memorize your entire presentation. However, memorizing your openings and conclusions is a good idea because they are possibly the two most crucial parts of your talks.


Memorizing the opening not only helps you immediately grab your audience’s attention, but it also helps you relax a bit because you know how you’ll begin your presentation.


And memorizing the conclusion is essential because you don’t want to leave the most impactful part of your talk to chance. Instead, you want it to be every bit as compelling as you had planned.


In this episode, you’ll learn how your brain, in an effort to help and protect you, may actually do the opposite.


Your brain’s primary functions include keeping you alive and steering you clear of harm’s way. When it determines that you are in a dangerous situation, or even in a stressful one, it initiates the fight or flight response. Once that adrenaline begins flowing through your body, all sorts of things start to happen, including your brain becoming super vigilant.


The following is an elementary explanation of what happens next, but it serves our purposes.


As you walk out on stage or to the front of a room to speak, your brain detects nervousness. Even though it’s natural to be a bit nervous, your brain sees it as a stressful situation and immediately tries to help. At this time in your talk, that help comes in the form of a suggestion for a new opening line.


Your brain suddenly speaks up, “Hey, you know that opening line that you determined was perfect for this audience? Yeah, the one that you’ve been rehearsing for weeks. Well, I have a great idea. Use the opening you used nine months ago in that talk with a different point, presented to a different audience. That opening worked, and you’re comfortable with it. Go for it. What could possibly go wrong?”


So, you change your opening at the last instant, and it lands with all the grace of a gooney bird.


And it’s not just your opening where your brain tries to help. A similar scenario takes place right before you conclude your talks. I highly suggest that don’t listen to your brain and stick with the conclusion you rehearsed, delivering it with confidence and resolve.


I admit there may be rare occasions when it’s wise to change your opening or conclusion, but unless you’re an experienced speaker, you might do well to ignore the temptation.


Sure, you may later wonder if changing your opening, conclusion, or both could have made your talk even more compelling, but for the most part, I’d rather stay the course than gamble on a long shot and have definitive proof that it didn’t work.