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Nail Your Presentation Without Memorizing a Thing

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

As a communicator- working with clients in a variety of settings and having led many presentations myself, I have developed a set of skills to help command a stage. And it all focuses on dropping the memorizing game. STOP MEMORIZING.


Practicing, presenting, discussing, does NOT mean memorizing. I cannot stress this enough. It is the main reason I do not recommend typing out a long speech when preparing for a presentation - you will only be tempted to memorize. Presentations are NOT scripts and a good presenter need not memorize every word they will say. A good presenter becomes comfortable with the material and discusses the topic at hand with ease. When the goal is comfort - the entire experience of presenting changes. It's ok if you forgot the exact word you wanted to say. You aren't flustered and can easily move forward.


So, how does one become comfortable with the material without memorization?

Practice, Declutter, Excite, Engage and Focus.


Practice

Practice. Practice all the time. Talk to yourself in the shower, while driving, walking, running - when you have a few moments, always practice the craft of talking. I do this - even when I don't have a specific presentation approaching. If I know I am going to discuss a challenging topic or I am working on messaging for a particular client - I practice.


Declutter

Declutter your deck. Too many words on a slide are distracting for you and your audience. Why? Your audience will either be reading the words on the slide or sleeping from boredom - in either case, they won't be listening to you and your wisdom. Too many words will distract you, as a presenter, as well. With each slide, you will focus on reading rather than engaging your audience. I urge you to take a look at every slide and question if its necessary. The goal of the presentation is for you to lead from a place of comfort - you are guiding the discussion. You are guiding the audience through a story and each slide is a stepping stone along that path.


Excite

Once your deck is decluttered, your job is to excite. Prepare anecdotes, statistics, real world examples and sprinkle them throughout the presentation. This will illustrate your message for the audience and break up the content. The exact cadence necessary will depend on the type of presentation you are leading. For most presentations, every two to three slides is a good opportunity to excite - and share a tale that makes your audience wonder, question, smile or laugh. If you are practicing with friends and family, ask them to point out any dry portions of the presentation. These are generally great places to insert some excitement. When you get more comfortable presenting, you will notice these dry spots for yourself. And you will heed the message and tell a story: after all, if you aren't excited about the content, there is no way your audience will be.


Engage

Engaging your audience is the non verbal portion of any presentation. Your content surely is terrific. But if you fail to break through the wall, your audience remains disconnected and the content falls flat. The best way to engage anyone is to ask questions. If you know who will be attending, you can craft questions that really resonate. If you don't know who will be coming - ask open ended questions that likely apply to a great number of people. For example, if I were to present the content of this article, I may start off with a question... "how many of us have felt butterflies prior to a presentation - despite practicing for a while?" It is a common experience and so the question itself will connect with many audience members. The question softens the relationship between audience and presenter, priming the audience for more information.


Focus

Focus - prioritize. Good presenters pick some things, not all things to illuminate. If equal weight is given to all content, the presenter becomes monotonous...uninteresting and bland. To avoid this, take a look at your slides (decluttered, of course). Choose one point to highlight. Think about those people in your life who speak in a monotone. It is very challenging to stay engaged in their content and identify what parts of their speech are most valued. Failing to hone in on a particular word is speaking in monotone and good presenters avoid it.


When preparing my own presentation or coaching others to do the same, I follow these principals. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out: youraudiencefirst@gmail.com

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