I think the biggest reason that people fear public speaking is that they are afraid of opening their mouths and “blanking out” or sounding stupid. Some people even try to memorize their speeches.
Right off, you should know that I’m not a big fan of speeches that are memorized word-for-word. I’ve tried it and found that it increases my “blank out” experiences (because I have only practiced saying something one way, instead of a more extemporaneous flow of speech). Even if you don’t need to memorize a speech word-for-word, you can use memorization techniques to enhance your recall of material.
The steps to Never Forgetting Your Speech:
- Write the outline
- Write (type or longhand) the body, then the introduction followed by the conclusion. Does it flow? Especially work on transitions.
- Read your written speech out loud. Does it sound OK? Record, if possible. I use the recorder on my cell phone. Pay close attention to transitions. A simple and very effective technique is to repeat a word that is at the end of one sentence in the beginning of another sentence as you transition to another part of your speech. I call it the Echo Technique. “She didn’t take down the Christmas tree until Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is 51 days after Christmas. I was ready to call the Fire Marshall.”
- Use keywords. If you don’t need to have it memorized word-for-word, reduce your speech to keywords and work from the key words. An alternative to key words is to storyboard your speech (use pictures for points)
- Apply memorization techniques. There are several you could use. Two are detailed below.
Memorization Technique #1: CHUNK IT! Read, Recall, Check, Repeat
Chunk the speech into smaller pieces (2-3 sentences)
- Read the chunk aloud
- Recall–try to say the chunk without peeking at the written speech
- Check by reading again (or if you recorded, you can listen to the recording)
- Repeat until you get the first chunk down
Then go on to the next chunk of material, but include the first chunk in the “Recall” part:
Chunk 1 + Chunk 2, then Chunk 1 + Chunk 2 + Chunk 3 and so on.
Continue until you can say the entire speech, word for word
Memorization Technique #2: Silly Walk Method
Break the speech up into the main points.
- Assign each of the points to a room in your home—the sub-points can be pieces of furniture.
- Create a word picture for the point. In your mind see yourself doing something silly with the word picture in the room.
- Physically walk through the house if you can, picturing the silly pictures as you say the words for each point. You can also take pictures with your phone of the locations and then run through it visually on your phone, imagining you are taking a walk.
Practice each segment, in order, several times, until you have the wording down (you can apply the Read, Recall, Check Repeat method here also)
Another version of the “Silly Walk” is to create a Map of your Speech and use pictures to represent concepts (or destinations) for your points.
Review Technique: Speed Speech (saying the speech very fast), spaced reviews.
Do you have other techniques to reduce “blank-outs” or forgetting of entire speech segments?