You have outlined and then written out the speech, and it is ready
to practice. I convinced myself that, as I was terrible at remembering
names and other things, I would also have trouble remembering
speeches without notes. It took plenty of practice and new tips
along the way, but now I feel confident in my ability to remember my
speeches. Below are some key tips:
• Go back and look at the outline to determine if the beginning, body,
and conclusion are logically arranged. I have found that some simple
re-arrangement of sentences can make all the difference in my ability
• Smooth out the speech to give it a more even flow if you find yourself
stumbling during transition points. The flow and rhythm are important.
• Don’t mumble the speech under your breath. You must be loud and
proud. Everything is a live rehearsal and will help your retention and
allow you to figure out better words to use. You will be surprised how
different your speech sounds from what you intended when you originally
• Learn in small increments. I begin by setting a goal of memorizing
a paragraph a day. Before work, I invest time going over the paragraph
to remember it. On my commute home from work, I try to recall the
most recent portion of the speech I worked on. By the end of the day,
I have the baseline of the paragraph down. The next day, I reinforce
the first paragraph and begin the second. I continue this progressive
approach until I remember the entire passage. You should note that
if you choose not to memorize the entire speech, you should at least
invest the time to know your material inside and out. Many experienced
people in the field of public speaking argue the wisdom of memorizing
entire speeches. Some argue that the presentation becomes too
acted or prescribed. I will leave it up to each individual as to how they
want to prepare their work. What is typically agreed on is the importance
of memorizing a strong opening and conclusion, with a laser
focus pointed on the key message and topics that must be stated within
the presentation to define the success of the speech.
• Visualize the speech in your head. With the small increments noted
above, you can begin to visualize the speech order based on key words
and sentence structures. Visualizing is slightly different from memorizing
because, to some extent, you are living the speech by thinking
about words, places you want to be on stage, and flow.
• Use gestures to accompany your words and use your body to guide
your mind. I have almost forgotten words many times but built strong
gesture routines and habits in which my arms and hands prompted me
with word memories.
• Incorporate alliteration. This shouldn’t be overdone, but it’s always a
great tool to throw in occasionally (e.g., helpless, homeless, and hurting…).
• Practice in different surroundings so you don’t get too comfortable
in one forum. For example, as noted above, I often practice while driving
home from work. Afterward, I am always shocked the first time I
stand up and practice it. I always seem thrown off simply by standing
the first time.
• Even if the speech isn’t perfect, practice with other people or a video
camera. This added pressure builds your concentration level.
• Use videotape to help underline some trouble spots for remembering.
This comes back to being able to visualize yourself on the stage.
• Then practice, practice, practice. You can never practice too much.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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