Posted by: George E Burney | July 27, 2012

Public Speaking – Stick To Your Outline!

Recently, while speaking at a religious convention, I did something I’d never done in my 40 years of public speaking: I forgot what I was saying, in mid-sentence! I finally had proof that I qualified for the senior citizen discount on coffee at McDonald’s, but that was of little consolation to me at the time.

I’ve since analyzed my faux pas ad nauseam, and I finally came to the following conclusions:

Memorizing Your Presentation Will Very Likely Lead To Disaster!

I have written time and again about the dangers of memorizing a presentation. So how did I make that mistake? I took my own advice in that I was thoroughly prepared, but in the course of all that preparation, I inadvertently memorized a large chunk of the first section of my material. I didn’t try to, it just happened. What’s worse, once I began speaking, I ignored my outline.

If You Have An Outline, Use It!

If I had simply given my introduction from memory, and then consulted my outline, that would have  been OK. Instead, I continued to speak from memory until I hit a snag, and couldn’t remember what came next. That problem was compounded by my difficulty in locating exactly where, on the outline, I was! The sinking feeling I felt at that moment was unlike any other I can recall.

It’s one thing to calmly and dispassionately tell others what they should do if they draw a blank and forget what comes next. It’s an entirely different matter to actually experience it yourself. I should have consulted my outline right after giving my introduction, and everything would have been fine, but I didn’t.

If You Forget What Comes Next, You’ll Experience Eternity!

There are two versions of eternity. There is time without end. That’s one type of eternity. There’s also the period which passes while you are before an audience, mentally stuck, trying to gather your wits and continue with your presentation.

Others, who were comfortably seated in the audience, afterwards said that the period when I was silent was very short, and I guess that proves that time moves faster for some than for others. To me, it seemed long enough for a person to take a shower, dress, have a leisurely breakfast, and drive halfway across town!

What’s The Lesson? Don’t Ever Forget The Basics!

So, learn from my unpleasant experience. First, prepare an outline. Second, use the outline you’ve prepared, even if you can remember much of your presentation. In other words, stick to the basics and you’ll be fine.

Copyright © 2012 by George Burney and betterpublicspeaking

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