At some point in your life, you are going to be called upon to give a presentation or speech.
Now, you might have to give a presentation in college, a presentation at the office, it doesn’t matter where, because if you can’t do this without constantly looking down or looking at the PowerPoint to reference your notes, you are at a huge disadvantage.
Not only does it come across as inauthentic when you’re not communicating to the people eye to eye, but if the PowerPoint breaks, which I’ve had happen, you’re going to find yourself standing in front of a room full of people who are waiting for you to speak and you have nothing to say.
Draft a “memory-friendly” outline for your presentation.
How to start the presentation?
The first thing you need to do is to create an outline of your presentation that is memory friendly.
Now, what does this mean?
The first thing is that it’s chunked in a way that you can remember in your short-term memory. Chunks, think of it like this.
If you were to tell you a phone number, that’s You’ll probably find that whenever you hear a phone number, you’ve got to write it down or you got to remember the first half and ask your friend to remember the second half, and then, you type it into the phone.
That’s because there are 10 chunks. That’s too many for most people. Most people can handle anywhere from 5 to 9 chunks. Your first piece gets an outline of 3 to 5 bullet points, but these points need to, in your head, feel like they flow clearly from one to another.
This piece is very important. This is how you avoid memorization. It just kind of flows out of you. So if you’re doing a piece on conversations, you’re going to do it in chronological order.
That makes sense, right?
So the first thing is you approach someone, the second thing is what do you say to start the conversation, the third thing is what do you do when you run out of things to say, and, finally, how do you say goodbye, right? That makes sense to me.
If you’re giving a pitch and you’re at a meeting, right?
And you’re trying to figure out how to structure things, maybe you think about it from the customer’s perspective.
First, they’re going to hit the marketing team, then they’re going to finally meet the sales team. And once they get sold, they’re going to go to the deliverables team.
Whatever it is, the pieces should flow naturally in your head. That will save you so much memorization work down the line, that’s why you should avoid memorizing. The second piece is that once you have these bullets, you flush them out.
Write out the entire presentation to nail the details and edit.
Type everything that you can think of underneath each bullet. That includes stories, things that you want to get, details that you might not have thought of.
That’s going to help you communicate your main point. But, more importantly, this will give you a chance to edit the ones that you don’t spend time on.
So the real key point to give a good presentation is to find your details, and then, to cut the ones that don’t support your purpose.
It’s not to memorize all these, by the way, we just want to get it out on paper. That’s the second piece. The third piece is now you’ve got a speech written for you, right? It’s got these chunks. It’s got the details.
Subvocalize your presentation without using visual cues
The third thing is to go through it and subvocalize the entire thing, referencing your high-level bullet points, but without visual cues.
So, first off, you want it, you’ve got your main bullet points, but you’re not memorizing this. You’re going through this presentation and it’s going to change a little bit every time–critically important.
People who try to memorize word for word, blow it because they get off one word and they can’t get back on the next sentence.
We all want to have these main points that we’re memorizing. You go through it and just kind of, you know, whisper to yourself. You go through the whole presentation like that.
Again, not going through it word for word for what you have on there, but just hitting those main points, but most importantly, you do this without visual cues.
Many people prepare for their presentation by reading through it 20 times and then, they get up there and there’s nothing they can do but read the presentation.
Or more common in the corporate world, people don’t even realize they’re doing it as they click through a PowerPoint, and they don’t realize that they’re taking cues from this PowerPoint as they go; they haven’t memorized
So, if the PowerPoint goes down, they’ve never had the exercise of actually connecting those pieces in their brain.
You need to go through it, shut your laptop, whatever, and just kind of talk through it to yourself in your own words the only things you need to worry about are those main points that should be memorized and should already
If they don’t connect, rewrite the presentation so that it makes sense and put them in an order that sequences well and just clicks for you.
You don’t want to be memorizing here. But there are things that you have to memorize, and that brings me to the fourth point.
Memorize the first and last sentences word for word
You got to nail the first sentence. It’s got to have a hook. You want it to be interesting. Don’t rift it. So get your first sentence down word for word.
And, of course, the last sentence; we’ve all been part of a presentation where the person did a good job, but at the end, they just kind of stood there and like, “…and that’s the end of my presentation.
Thank you,” right?
That will blow it.
You don’t have to say “Thank you, that’s the end of my presentation,” to cue the applause.
You want to have something that has a tone, a finality. You have to give a good presentation without being nervous.
Memorize word for word first sentence, last sentence, that’s going to give you the sort of bumpers on either end. And that’s how you can speak for 10-20 minutes at a time without actually having to memorize that much.