How to learn and remember a presentation…or an argument for not using notes in a presentation

imagesI came across a story the other day that really made me pause and think.

An elderly gentleman in his seventies had prided himself on his good memory all his working professional life. As a medical doctor and professor he had been able to learn and recall information easily and almost without thought.  As he approached his mid seventies though he realised that occasionally he would forget things.  Where he had put the car keys or that he had forgotten the sugar at the supermarket.  So he started to make and use lists.

And something strange happened.  When he went to the supermarket using his list he came home with everything on the list.  No problem.  Except that without the list, he could now no longer remember anything. Even the things he used to be able to recall easily. When he stopped using his memory (brain) it stopped working.  The lists stopped being a safety net and instead had become a crutch. A crutch that he became increasingly dependent upon.

So what did he do?  He started to consciously work on learning how to remember again.  And not to worry if he forgot the odd item like the sugar.

What I find interesting about this story is that often in presentations my clients will say that they need to write everything down so they don’t forget anything.  Some people write this as a script.  Some as a linear list on a piece of paper.  Some on cards. And some as bullet points on a slide (argh!).  The challenge here of course is that the notes that are supposed to be a safety net, in case the mind goes blank or a disruption occurs, become a crutch without which the speaker cannot remember anything!  You will see this when a speaker hangs onto their paper like grim death and looks down to read even when they know it.

So how do you have notes that are a safety net not a crutch.  Here are four tips for starters:

  1. Don’t write a script.  Say your presentation out loud and jot notes and prompts first instead
  2. Sketch out the flow and shape and sequence of your presentation first and then add in content.  That way you understand how the presentation hangs together. Much easier to remember than a script
  3. Practice out loud and with the right pace and movement.  By learning your presentation through your mind( content), body( movement) and soul( emotion), you are ensuring that you will remember your presentation effortlessly.
  4. If you forget something, stay calm.  It is not the end of the world.  Be quiet. Be patient and the words will return.

Tell me what techniques you use to remember what to say….oh – and how are you going to remember the sugar next time you go for groceries?

If you would like to talk to Catherine about your presentations, then call on 07946604859 or email on

The Expert’s Presentation Game plan is an on line training programme supplemented with one to ones.  Click here for more details.


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