By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
In my line of work, I find myself on my feet giving presentations quite often: marketing talks, CLE seminars, strategy sessions. I prepare for those opportunities pretty extensively, but here is one thing I don’t do as part of that preparation: I don’t sit and review my notes. I do prepare notes, and I do make sure that I devote plenty of time to planning out what I’m going to say, for example, when a given slide is on the screen. That’s especially true since I don’t believe in text-heavy slides that, in effect, put the speaker’s notes up on the screen. So, the content is always planned out. But once I’m done writing those notes, I don’t passively read them. Instead, if I have time, I’ll practice the presentation on my feet — using notes when I need to, but purposefully weening myself off those notes.
And, if I don’t have time to practice on my feet, I’ll do the next best thing. I’ll record my presentation using a digital recorder, or these days, my phone, and then I will listen to my own presentation several times as I’m doing other things, like shaving or driving to work. It is my belief that this form of review and practice is much better than silent study. It gets me more quickly to the point of being familiar with the content so I can deliver it extemporaneously, and it builds confidence. That has been my experience, and now there is research to back it up. Two memory researchers from Canada (Forrin & MacLeod, 2017) conducted an experiment showing that there is a memory advantage when saying words aloud, as opposed to hearing them or reading them. And the next best thing to actually saying them out loud is to hear them, not just in anyone’s voice, but in our own. In this post, I’ll briefly look at why that is the case, and share some rehearsal tips.