We coach speakers every day. And every day, someone tells us, “I just feel more comfortable when I memorize. How else can I be sure I remembered everything?”
This point of view lets us know that the speaker needs to change her intention. When the intention is, “To remember everything I wrote down,” it becomes very hard to create an engaging experience for your audience.
Here are the top 5 reasons we think memorizing your speech is a bad idea:
- Instead of connecting with your audience, you’re thinking about your script. And we can tell—your eyes dart up to access the next bit of content, and it can look like you’re reading from a ticker-tape right in front of your eyes.
- If you lose a word or skip a sentence, it’s much harder to recover than if you are speaking from a robust outline.
- Many speakers work just hard enough to remember all the words, but don’t continue the effort to work to sound like they aren’t so rehearsed. It’s twice as much work to memorize, and then practice past the memorization.
- A memorized speech leaves no room for the unexpected, the spontaneous. When you know what you want to talk about, and you’re prepared, you can adjust on the fly to acknowledge something someone said earlier, to include a new thought, or to say “Gesundheit!” to a sneezer.
- It’s difficult to memorize written material because we create obstacles when we don’t write the way that we talk. Something that reads great in a white paper becomes awkward to say.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The alternative to not memorizing is not winging it. You can, and should! still prepare. But I recommend that you work from bullet points, only memorizing your introduction, transitions, and closing.