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Why Memorization in Public Speaking is Dangerous

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach


F
or both the speech and presentation, I do not recommend memorization except for your opening statement. Because your nervousness will be greatest in the beginning of your delivery, I do advocate memorizing your first 3 or 4 lines so that your opening flows as effortlessly as possible.


Because you are judged the moment you open your mouth to speak, it is vital to ‘put your best foot forward,’ so to speak. Many of my clients tell me that they warm up after the first 5 minutes. Your audience, however, is not timing you, waiting for you to relax.

While you should not be concerned with an occasional mistake, the one time when it is to your advantage to be flawless is in your opening remarks. In doing so, it will bolster your confidence which will make the rest of your delivery easier and more effective.

The one time it is to your advantage to be flawless is in your opening remarks.
The problems with memorization of the development of your presentation or speech are twofold:

1. You stand the chance of sounding rote. How many times have you received a phone call (usually in the midst of your dinner) from a telemarketer who spits out a pile of words from a memorized script? Memorization of your material does not allow for communication with your audience.

2. You stand the chance of forgetting where you are. While man’s greatest fear may be public speaking, one of the reasons for that fear is the possibility of losing one’s train of thought or place and thus looking foolish.

During a 2-day workshop, one of my clients, a professional speaker, gave a brief presentation in which he not only had a memorized script but he also lost his train of thought. The entire class immediately recognized that this man was not talking to us but was talking at us. There was no connection between him, as the speaker, and us, his audience.
Your audience is not timing you, waiting for you to relax. You are judged the moment you open your mouth to speak.


When he forgot where he was, he looked up in thought, focusing his attention on the ceiling as he struggled to remember his words – something we all do in normal conversation – and then his words came to him. What was interesting about this rote delivery was that the only time he looked natural, normal, and human was when he lost his place. At that point, there was a connection between him and us. Upon remembering his words, however, he continued to drone on with his memorized script.

As a professional speaker, this man was accustomed to giving 90-minute presentations. I was bored after 3 minutes and can’t imagine sitting through the same for an hour and a half!
Your audience is not there to hear you deliver a piece from memory; if they did, you would be acting on a stage and your audience would be attending a play.

It is called public speaking for a reason. Your audience is not there to hear you deliver a piece from memory; if they did, you would be acting on a stage and your audience would be attending a play. They came to hear you speak to them. The term public speaking refers to effective oral communication with an audience. While memorization may be oral, it is not effective nor is it communication.

Next time you are to give a speech or a presentation, communicate with your audience and discover the true joy of public speaking!




International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with
her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement.





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