As a professional speaker, there’s no doubt you’ve thought about this. It’s showtime. You hit the stage, the crowd’s gaze is focused on you, and you…
Draw a blank.
Maybe it’s your opening line or that all important closer. Or maybe you hit a gap in the middle of your presentation.
It’s one of the biggest fears for any keynote speaker. And even the most seasoned pros have moments of pausing to think, “what’s my line again?”
We tapped into our network of professional speakers to get their tips and tricks for how to avoid this uncomfortable situation.
5 Tips to Avoid Drawing a Blank in Your Keynote Presentation
1. Don’t Memorize Your Presentation
If you want to avoid drawing a blank, avoid memorizing your speech, says Michelle Tillis Lederman, Author of The Connector’s Advantage. Instead, focus on connecting with your message.
“Don’t memorize because when you try to memorize word for word is when you are likely to get tripped up,” explains Michelle. “Instead, connect to your message. Determine the three points you want to make and how they relate to each other. Select a story that you know well to exemplify each point. Add a question to the audience or two and make it a conversation more than a presentation. My only caveat is your opening and closing sentence. That is when attention is at its highest and those moments, you can memorize. That will kick you off on a confident path.”
That caveat is a point that Mandi Stanley, Certified Speaking Professional, fully agrees with.
She elaborates, “My tip is to memorize your first and last sentences only. If you try to memorize the whole thing, you’ll inevitably forget something and end up standing there with that deer-in headlights look. You should be able to stand and deliver your opening remarks with confident audience eye contact. You would be surprised at how many executive speakers begin by looking down and reading their notes or slides.”
2. Memorize Bulletpoints Only
Many speakers simply feel more comfortable when there’s a greater component of memorization in their presentation prep. It’s all a matter of preference. If you’re going to lean more towards memorization, Wolf Millstone, CEO & Founder of Wolf Millstone Group, advises taking it in smaller increments.
“As far as memorizing your speech is concerned, you can’t wing it,” explains Wolf. “The best of the best prepare and rehearse their content continuously and that helps with memorization. What works best for me is that I summarize my speech into bullet points and start memorizing those key points. That’s much easier than memorizing long sentences and paragraphs. Bullet points also make sure you don’t sound like you’e reading off a prompt and allow your ideas to flow naturally.”
He adds, “Another easy trick is to incorporate movement, if possible, into your talk. Doing so allows you to keep track of where you are in your talk. For example, stage left could mean you’re approaching the conclusion of a certain point of wisdom.”
3. Incorporate Movement and Imagery Into Your Presentation
As an extension of Wolf’s tip about incorporating movement into your presentation, Bob Gray, CSP, HOF, has a similarly interesting approach.
“Oftentimes, we know our material,” says Bob. “We just want to ensure we don’t forget any key points, and that we deliver them in their correct sequence. Enter The Memory Palace. Take a mental walk around the first floor of your home. Pick the most logical route. Room 1, Room 2, and so on. Convert the key points of your presentation into images.”
He continues, “Visually link–in a crazy, ridiculous fashion–the image representing Key Point 1 to a major piece of furniture in Room 1, then the same with Key Point 2 in Room 2 and so on. When you wish to recall them, you simply take that same mental walk around the first floor of your home picking up the linked information.”
4. Utilize Transition Statements
Another unique approach to locking in your presentation comes in the form of using transition statements, says Trisha Miltimore, Speaker, Trainer, Mentor, and Founder of InspireStore.
“Back in my radio broadcasting days I learned a strategy for moving seamlessly and strategically through segments without having to memorize paragraphs and scripts,” explains Trisha. “Here’s how it works. Break your speech up into ten minute segments and connect each segment with a transition statement. Like most speakers, I’m a storyteller, so the general flow is story to transition statement to story. Transition statements can be as concise as one sentence or may be a series of sentences that powerfully, and intentionally, connect your stories with main learning outcomes.”
She adds, “Transition statements are also an opportunity to change up your tempo, inflection, and physical style of delivery to keep audience members engaged and wondering what’s next.”
5. Focus on Telling Stories
Trisha was right when she said that most speakers are storytellers–a fact that’s validated by Clinton Young, International Keynote Speaker, Founder of #SpeakerPosse, and Coach for Aspiring World Class Speakers.
“I highly recommend that you tell more stories,” says Clinton. “There’s a reason World Class Speakers tell 70% stories and 30% content. Stories are easier for you and your audience to remember, significantly more effective at inspiring action, and way more enjoyable for everyone. Tell More Stories!”
Whatever approach you choose to take, one thing is for sure. By implementing the right techniques and tactics during your preparation, you can make sure you give a keynote presentation that’s seamless and makes a lasting impression with your audience.
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