I think that we can all agree that giving a speech can be a very stressful thing to do. There are so many different things that are out of our control and any one of these things can go wrong and end up destroying our speech and preventing us from sharing the importance of public speaking. One of a speaker’s greatest fears is that half way through our speech we are just going to forget what we wanted to say. Our mind will go blank and we just be staring at our audience. It turns out that if we don’t want this to happen, there are several things that we can do in order to prevent it…
How To Not Forget Your Speech
As terrifying as the prospect of forgetting your speech might be, there is good news here. The people who do memory research are able to offer us some very specific advice for effective remembering tips that can reduce our speaking jitters and help us to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting what we wanted to say. What we need to understand is that if we take care of our body then our memory will follow. I think that most of us will recognize this as being something that our parents told us when we were growing up: Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. However, with a big presentation deadline looming, speakers often fail to heed this simple advice. Paying attention to how you treat yourself can alleviate your anxiety and improve your memory.
So just exactly how should we prepare for a speech if we don’t want to run the risk of forgetting what we want to say? Nutrition experts tell us to eat a healthy meal or substantial snack one to two hours before speaking. The meal or snack should be made up of healthy carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats. It turns out that balance matters. Complex carbohydrates, nuts and oils help in our memory formation and retention. So, like an athlete before an event, you might want to carbo-load when preparing an important presentation.
We need to choose our drinks carefully also. Caffeine facilitates creativity and productivity, but it also can bring on the jitters, dry mouth and flighty memory. So it makes sense to go for an energy drink (think Red Bull) when preparing a speech, but it’s not a good idea just before delivering it. As for alcohol, remember: although alcohol might be tempting to use as a relaxation tool, evidence suggests it causes forgetfulness and “loosens the tongue,” which might lead to undesirable speech outcomes.
It turns out that exercise can improve memory and reduce anxiety. Exercise doctors have found that people with lower percentages of body fat and lower average resting heart rates handle stressful situations better than those who are not as fit. Additionally, our physical activity increases lung capacity and bolsters mental focus, two very important components for competent speaking. Finally, exercise allows us to release pent-up anxiety and stress. Going for a walk, swim or a bike ride prior to writing or practicing a speech can help reduce anxiety and improve our performance.
Preventing Memory Loss Before It Happens
Something that a lot of us may not know is that where you learn is as important as what you learn. The location where you practice your speech should be similar to where you will present it. Researchers call this state-dependent learning. The context in which you learn your speech helps you to remember what you want to say. Practicing your speech in a place similar to where you will be presenting will facilitate your ability to remember. Also, you will be more confident because you know what to expect from the setting.
The way that we are going to remember what we want to say is by having our brain be able to recall what we want to say next. We can change how we approach preparing and practicing our presentation, but our brain never changes its approach to organizing information and consolidating what it knows. Over the past decade, researchers have changed their suggestions for the best ways to study. They are now finding that, instead of relying on lengthy cramming sessions, varying what you are studying and taking breaks while learning helps in remembering your content. For speakers, this new research suggests that you should focus on learning the content of your speech in multiple blocks of time – say 30 minutes each – with breaks in between. These breaks help with long-term remembering and allow the onslaught of stress hormones to abate.
What All Of This Means For You
As speakers, we all wish that we ran the world. If we did, then we could make sure that nothing bad would ever happen while we were giving a speech. However, it turns out that none of us run the world and so there is always the possibility that something bad might happen while we are giving a speech. Pretty much the worst thing that could ever happen to any of us would be for us to forget what we wanted to say next. What we all need is to find some way to prevent this bad, bad thing from ever happening to us.
As we have been told since childhood, it turns out that if we take care of our body then our memory will follow. Prior to giving a speech, we should take the time to eat a healthy meal. Pick the right foods. What we drink before a speech matters also. Caffeine and alcohol are both bad selections. Taking time to exercise both when we are creating a speech and prior to when we are giving a speech can help us to think more clearly. We need to understand that where we practice our speech can have a big impact on our ability to remember what we want to say. Also, the way that we practice our speech can help us to remember what we want to say next.
There is probably no worse feeling in the world than standing in front of an audience right after the next thing that you wanted to say has left your mind. As speakers, we know that if this happens, we’re going to be in a very bad spot. In order to make sure that this does not happen, it turns out that there are things that we can do before we give a speech. If we start to do these things, although life has no guarantees, there is a good chance that we might be able to avoid having this happen to us!
Question For You: How big of a meal do you think that we should eat before we give a speech?
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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
When we stand in front of an audience to give a speech, not always, but many times we are actually standing behind a lectern. We all know what these look like; however, has anyone ever told you how to go about using one? No, there are no buttons to press or levers to flip. However, it turns out that a lectern can help you to give a more powerful speech – if you know how to use it correctly.