At a workshop I was holding in Toronto, one of the participants proceeded to deliver part of a rote, memorized persuasive presentation. This man, who I will call Bill, told us that he was a ‘professional’ speaker and that his presentations lasted 90 minutes. Luckily for us, he was only allowed to speak for 8-9 minutes; however, it took just 5 minutes of his memorized script for the attention of the group to begin to fade, as their eyes glazed over.
What was so interesting about Bill’s delivery was that at one point, he forgot a word. He then looked up to the ceiling, trying to capture the word. It was at that moment, and at that moment only, that he sounded and looked natural.
If you memorize your presentation or your speech, you are bound by the memorized word. Public speaking has, as one of its two fundamentals terms, the word speaking. The premise is that you are to talk to your audience, not at them. If you deliver a memorized script, you are not talking to or communicating with your listeners, you are performing. In that sense, you are acting.
The difficulty with memorization is two-fold:
1. If you forget where you are, you will have much more difficulty recapturing your thoughts. With memorization, there is a different thought process involved than in speaking around notes, a PowerPoint presentation or slides. In the latter, you have bullet points pointing you in the right direction. If you forget where you are when playing the piano, for example, it is quite possible that your fingers will continue to play even if your mind goes blank. This only happens, however, if you know the musical selection inside and out. Why the same does not hold true for memorization in speaking, however, is because the words will not come out of your mouth if you have forgotten what comes next.
2. The other problem with memorization is that you do not sound natural. Your delivery is much like that of the telesales people who phone you with their memorized script, trying to sell you something. What is fascinating about their approach is that they have no desire to communicate with you. Their role is to spit out a pile of words, trying to force you to listen and never once showing an interest in your response. Trying to politely end the conversation is near to impossible; and, sometimes the only way to tell them you are not interested is to hang up. Much the same is happening to the delivery of the memorized speech or presentation. It does not allow for your awareness of your audience’s reaction to you.
There are times when memorization is a must in public speaking. The body of your speech or presentation is not one of them.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Voice Dynamic.
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