For Fear of Forgetting… what can you do if you forget your presentation?


Comedians write on their hands…

When you stand up to speak at a seminar, conference or even at a team meeting, do you ever worry that you’re going to forget what to say? That’s not surprising – it’s a key concern that most people have and often cited as a common side effect of nerves.

Unfortunately, the way in which most people find their way around this problem, ends up working against them… PowerPoint. Yes, most people type out their script, using PowerPoint as an auto-cue, and then proceed to read it to their audience.  Let me tell you… audiences hate being read to. You should avoid this approach.

So, the problem remains – how do you ensure you won’t forget the content of your talk? Over the next couple of blog posts I’ll be sharing with you some of the strategies that great speakers use in order to solve this little conundrum.

The obvious answer is to learn your material. Rehearse it over and over again.  Not just in your head, but, out loud. We learn things “parrot fashion” and the act of constant repetition definitely helps.

But even then, nerves alone can make you “go blank.”  It can happen to anyone. You just need to find a way out of the problem should that happen!

Frank Dick OBE

I once had the privilege of working with Frank Dick OBE – the former British Athletics Federation’s Director of Coaching. Frank is much in demand and is a brilliant motivational speaker. Travelling with him between venues I said, “Goodness, you have a fantastic memory. You never forget your material.” He replied, “I often forget my material! When I do, I make out that I’ve just thought of something funny – I stop and I tell a little joke (I have loads I keep up my sleeve) and as I’m telling it I wander back to my notes. As the audience laugh at the punch line I sneak a peek at my notes and… I’m off again.”

So, have your notes to hand. Notes you can call on should you lose your place, or forget your lines. Best not to have these written on your hand (a trick adopted by many a stand-up comedian) as they are evident to the audience and don’t look terribly professional.

If you are speaking from a lectern you can have an A4 pad before you, but personally  I like to use index cards. Viewed side on they are quite unobtrusive and they fit nicely inside a pocket.  The secret though, whatever you choose, is to write just key words as notes. Use only a few key words to keep you on track.  If you write out your script in full the temptation will be to read it. To connect with your audience you need to maintain eye-contact– reading does not help! If you do “go blank” you need to find your place quickly. You do not want to read through an essay in order to get back on track. Keep your notes short.

Index Cards best for notes

I keep my notes in my inside jacket pocket. If I lose my place I’ll sometimes admit it (we are all human – it’s going to happen every now and then.)  I’ll say, “Ladies and Gentlemen… do you ever get half way through a sentence and completely forget what you’re going to say next? Well it’s just happened to me now! I haven’t a clue what comes next… just bear with me…” I calmly take out my notes slowly look through them till I’ve found my place say, “Ah, yes of course…” and simply continue. Most people don’t even register what happened.

In my next blog post I’ll be sharing with you a memory technique that I use for learning things quickly. I serves me really well, not only when I’m out and about delivering keynote talks but also if I find myself without paper and pen but I need to remember what I’ve just heard or even thought.

In the meantime If you have some tips or tricks for keeping your presentation on track please share them here – I’d love to hear them.


One Response to “For Fear of Forgetting… what can you do if you forget your presentation?”

  1. Remember, remember…techniques for remembering your presentation « New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog Says:

    […] New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog musings on presentations, sales and customer service skills « For Fear of Forgetting… what can you do if you forget your presentation? […]

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