PICTURE this. You are on stage presenting. And then it happens. You are looking out at the audience and your mind goes blank. You look at the floor then up at the ceiling, trying desperately to remember where you were. You had practiced consistently and memorised your presentation from start to finish. It seems like an eternity of silence has gone by. How can you avoid forgetting your presentation and what can you do if it happens?
No-one wants to forget a presentation. Sometimes the fear of forgetting can be so strong that it stops people from presenting in the first place. But forgetting is natural. If we remembered every single event, experience or emotion our brains would have an infinite amount of data to sift through. Our memory is organised in a way to help us recall what we need. The problem is, sometimes that recollection mechanism fails us. This is where speaking techniques are important.
Everyone has a different way of remembering a presentation or speech. Memorising your presentation or speech word-for-word, can seem like the best way to avoid forgetting. But rote learning is generally not the most effective way of ensuring you glide through your presentation. Even the simplest of distractions or memory burp can leave you wondering what comes next. Here are some techniques you can use to minimise your risk of forgetting and to get back on track if you do:
- Visualise the structure of your presentation. Approximately a quarter of our brains are used for visual processing. This means that our brain likes to learn in pictures. Drawing a picture of the structure of your presentation in your mind can help you remember what comes next and how the pieces fit together.
- Practice in similar surroundings. In this way, your brain will be familiar with doing that presentation in a similar room and recall will be easier: during the actual presentation, it will be like you have done it before. This is why when we visit our old highschool, for example, we remember our school days much more vividly.
- Pause to give yourself time to catch up and determine where you are going with your presentation. If you have notes, this enables you to look ahead and reacquaint yourself with the content. If you do not have notes, breathe to relax your mind so that it finds its flow.
Forgetting a presentation can be distressing. With proper preparation, you can minimise the risk and glide through your presentation from start to finish. However, if you do forget, there is no need to panic. Most of the time, the audience is on your side. People appreciate the effort it takes to prepare, practice and present. Be kind to yourself and accept that the audience is more generous that you may give them credit for.