01June 2020

What if I forget?

A common fear in presenting is of forgetting what comes next.
And therefore a common mistake is to counteract that by trying to memorise too much.
However, in normal conversation, we never worry that much about what comes next.
So what is the difference?

Does it all come down to being 'under the spotlight'?
At a party, you could be sharing your opinion with another guest.
Suddenly the room goes quiet and everyone has turned towards you to hear what you are going to say next.
Chances are you would become totally self-conscious and no longer be able to speak.
We can talk about feeling exposed and under pressure,
we can talk about fear of failure or embarrassment
and we can talk about the weight of expectation (usually our own!).
In the end, however, it probably all comes down to 2 things: conviction and clarity of thought.
If at the party, you were talking about something that you felt strongly about;
if you were convinced about your key point and passionate in your beliefs, after a moment's hesitation, you would probably be able to continue.
So the clearer the message and the stronger your reason for speaking, the less likely you are to get lost in what you want to say.

I recently attended the final of a youth speaking event.
An hour before the contest one of the girls asked my colleague:
'What if I forget?'
He gave most of the tips we would normally suggest: slowing down, taking a breath, and he explained to her that a pause never seems as long for the audience as it feels for the speaker, etc...
I had trained this girl, so when I started to speak to her, there was a smile of recognition because she probably knew what was coming.
I asked: 'Do you know your last line?'
She said 'Yes.'
'Do you know the point of your speech?'
She said 'Yes.'
'Then you'll be OK!'
That may sound simplistic and almost dismissive.
However, I was highlighting a couple of principles that I knew she already understood.
Firstly, if you know your last line, which usually contains the 'message' or the 'point' of the speech, and you forget some of the content, you can always jump straight to your main point.  The speech may seem a little short, but at least the point gets across.
Secondly, she realised that if you get stuck for a moment, that clear knowledge of your last line will usually be enough to pull you back onto the path and remind you of what you wanted to say.

And she also understood that the key to a successful presentation is simplicity.
We have a tendency when we are under pressure to overcomplicate.

So the effect of knowing your last line is twofold:
(i)            it gives you a safe place to cut to if you get lost mid-speech (it is like an escape gate in a maze)
(ii)           it acts like a bright beacon drawing you back onto the path to your conclusion,

…which in turn brings a third benefit, - it keeps everything simple, which helps reduce the pressure,
which means you are less likely to forget anything in the first place!

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Michael's superb training style is underpinned by an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. Like all true experts, he delivers what he knows with ease and simplicity, exampling the skills he is teaching as he does so.

Very informative and great anecdotes which illustrated points and provided visual markers.

The most interesting training that I have ever taken part in! Experience + Wisdom + Perfect teaching approach.

The training was spot on. He really listened to us and customised his responses throughout.

Loved the creation of visual examples through the use of body and how relating the experience really helps demonstrate the message.

Very approachable and motivational. So much information, brilliantly delivered.

Loads of great analogies and stories - very friendly and helpful.

Very approachable and knowledgeable and good use of examples to simplify the material.

In just one day Michael was able to teach a class of children how to craft their own personal stories and experiences into powerful and engaging speeches that resonate with an adult audience as well as with a younger audience. It is a marvellous way to help them increase self-confidence and in the process - almost without them even realising it - become natural speakers and excellent communicators.

Michael has a style of speaking which draws the audience into his world, captivates them and leaves them with lasting memories of some of the descriptive phrases he has used and the information he has included. He also has the ability to pass the skills he uses in his own speaking on to those he trains.

Very good rapport, attention to detail, individual support, positive atmosphere and encouragement - a great place for learning.

• Very great example; how to express yourself, how to be engaging and how to match body language with what is said.