When to Memorize

Do you wonder whether or not to memorize your presentation?

Memorizing a presentation word for word can get you into trouble. You may get off track and suddenly you aren't sure of your lines.

Think of an actor who goes blank in the spotlight.

Plus, reciting from memory will give your talk a canned quality. Better to prepare an outline and talk about your key points in a way that's conversational.

And there are two exceptions to this advice!

You should always memorize your opening and your close.

Why is that?

Your audience is most likely to remember what you say first, and what you say last. You’ve got to get those parts just right.

Memorize your Opening

When you step up to speak you should know your opening – the first 60 to 90 seconds of content that comes out of your mouth – and have it down cold.

Be ready with a great headline, startling statement or unusual statistic, and practice what you’ll say next.

Better yet, start with the best story you’ve got. You know, the one that has a cliffhanger. “As I stood in the murky gray salt water, I saw the fin just before I felt the bite…”

Once you begin clearly and smoothly, your confidence will build.

Kate applied this advice to improve her leadership presence.

Kate used to begin her presentations with small talk. You know, chatter about the local weather and sports team. She’d then segue into sharing how happy she was to be there, and a list of her credentials.

“I’m just trying to be friendly and humble. I want to warm up the audience a bit and let them know who I am.”

Problem was, by the time Kate got around to sharing meaty content, her audience was tuning out. I encouraged Kate to ask someone else to introduce her before she stepped in front of the microphone.

By getting introductions out of the way, Kate is free to capture attention right out of the gate with an opening that is targeted and exciting.

Kate gets a lot more invitations to speak these days.

Memorize your Close, Too

Your final remarks are just as important as your opening remarks because your audience is listening carefully as soon as they hear a version of "In Conclusion..."

Avoid wishy-washy summaries that limp along to the end. Finish with energy and make your ending crisp, with a little punch.

A dependable way to do this is to take your audience back to your opening, bringing the message full circle.

“I opened with a story about surviving a shark attack, the toughest day of my life. If that experience taught me anything, it was this…”

Figure out how to summarize you main message at the very end. It's the last thing you should say.

So in Conclusion…

Your opening and your close matter a lot. Prepare, memorize and practice how you will start and finish up your presentation. It's what your audience will remember most!



P.S. I coach people who struggle with communicating effectively. Reach out to me through the website for help, or just to say hello!

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