As readers of this blog well know, one of the biggest fears I hear from my public speaking students and coaching clients is that they fear forgetting their presentations. No one wants to be in front of a crowd having forgotten what to say. Two new research studies suggest powerful, yet simple remembering techniques that can minimize the likelihood of forgetting.
Baylor psychologist Melanie Sekeres published research that shows the power of sharing newly learned information. When compared to participants who simply tried to remember new information, Sekeres found both central and peripheral information was better and more accurately recalled when participants explained what they recently learned to someone else. This “replaying effect” of newly learned information can directly help presenters. Rather than hole up and rehearse your presentation, spend time sharing your content with other people. Not only will you gain valuable feedback to assist you in honing your message for your audience, but you will likely better remember your content.
Another practical memory improvement technique comes from work done by Takeo Watanabe at Brown University. His work focuses on the value of over learning – a technique where you reinforce newly acquired information over time. Instead of simply practicing material or a skill until you remember it, over learning has you continue to practice or drill the information/skill. In so doing, you cement the learning in a more permanent manner such that recall and fidelity are improved when compared to normal learning. For a nervous speaker motivated not to blank out while speaking, a few extra rounds of practice beyond what is needed can really help.
Taken together, the memory enhancing techniques of replaying and over learning can increase a presenter’s confidence by reducing the likelihood of forgetting what was intended to be said.