Be honest, how many times have you sat through a seminar or conference or a colleague’s proposal and made plans for what you’re going to eat for dinner that night? Or how many times have you endured a presentation but didn’t hear a word the presenter said because you were too busy reading the slides to actually pay attention. Sound familiar?
Now think about a time where you had to give a presentation yourself, how did it go? Did you read directly from your notes or rely on your slides to remember where you ‘were’? What response did you get from your audience? It’s hard to tell right? That’s because when you rely on your learned memory instead of your personal memory it’s difficult to make a connection with your audience because we are too busy ‘remembering’ where we have to ‘go’ to next instead of focusing on the people right in front of us.
What’s the difference between learned and personal memory?
Think of your learned memory as a very large filing cabinet which contains information that you have learned all through life, but may not necessarily have experienced for yourself. Think back to that time when you were in primary school and your teacher asked you to recite a poem. You began in a sing song manner, rushing through each word with the only goal in mind to get to the end before you ‘lose’ your place. Sound familiar? When we deliver a speech or give a presentation and rely solely on our learned memory, we often use a different kind of language, adopt a more serious tone and try our very hardest to ignore the pesky audience so that we can safely get to the end and sit down. Sure you made it through, but did you really connect with your audience? Did they understand your message and benefit from hearing you speak? Not wanting to sound harsh but my guess is… probably not.
So how can you actively engage your audience and actually look forward to your next speaking engagement?
By having the confidence to stand in front of that audience and rely on your ‘personal memory’. At the end of the day you have been asked to give the particular speech or presentation, not because your boss hates you, but because you genuinely know about the topic you are presenting on. All of the important information is in your head – your job is to tell the audience what you know in the most colourful, engaging way possible. Recently we facilitated some training sessions with a clothing company who specialised in making their own creations. They were incredibly nervous about an upcoming pitch to a potential investor and came to us for advice. During their ‘mock’ pitch they spoke about their achievements, the amount of units they sold and how the design process worked. We were of course amazed by their achievements but knew deep down that relying heavily on facts and figures and the ‘learned memory’ was not going to impress the investor.
We decided to change tact and asked the group some questions to engage their personal memory. Suddenly, the energy in the room changed. Instead of focusing on rhyming off the number of units sold, the founder and CEO of the company began speaking about the first dress she had ever designed and how she had been inspired by her grandmother and her love of the colour blue. The transformation was instant, everyone in the room was hanging on her every word, completely engaged in her story and imaging this little girl and her grandmother and their love of clothes. Soon the rest of the group were recalling personal stories which linked to the business. Another employee told us about travelling to France and falling in love with a particular type of lace which inspired one of the company’s biggest selling pieces. As a group we could almost see her walking through the Parisian streets with the lace in her hand.
Can you see the difference? You may argue that you can’t work from personal memory when speaking in a business context right? I promise you, you can. All you need to do is focus on your key messages and choose personal stories which best describe the point you want to make.
Try it the next time you have to make a presentation. Jot down 3 key pieces of information you need to get across to your audience and around the three pointers write down some personal stories or memories you associate with them. It will instantly transform how you present!
Interested in your company taking part in our authentic presentation programme? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com