Train Your Brain to Improve Memory and Ease Presentation Anxiety

posted in: Speaking 1

Public speaking is stressful for most of us, leading to nightmares of a blank mind and a waiting audience. These tips can help prevent the blank mind, at least.

Speaking before groups of prospective clients is one of the best ways to market your accounting firm and its services. It gives the audience an opportunity to hear what you have to say when they’re focused on you and your message, and you can establish yourself as an expert in the field if you do the job well. Despite its clear value, many people have a disproportionate fear of the public speaking experience. While going through the process enough times to get comfortable is the only way to really knock down the anxiety level, being confident that your material is firmly in your memory bank and accessible when you need it can help manage the specific fear that you’ll be standing open-mouthed and silent in front of the crowd. Bruna Martinuzzi offers nine strategies to help you remember your presentation material in an article on OpenForum. They won’t cure the irrational fears of public speaking, but they’ll definitely help your confidence and the quality of your presentation.

  • The memory palace is a system that uses your brain’s spatial learning ability to remember a list of unrelated things. When you associate a point in your presentation with a particular spot (let’s say the revenue growth chart that you place on your office windowsill) your mental filing system then accesses the place and the object (or in this case, the topic) together. So during your presentation you can picture yourself going from windowsill to coffee table to break room to automatically call up the points about revenue growth, client retention and revenue segmentation if those are the subjects you associated with each place.
  • Mind maps are great for visual learners and others who have trouble remembering long lists. Lay out the information you want to cover in a pattern that you then learn. When it’s time to access the information, simply picture the pattern and you’ll be able to recall the information that goes in each position.
  • The eight-second rule states that we encode new information into memory with eight seconds of focusing on that piece of data. The time must be spent fully mindful of only that bit of information, not the other thoughts that want to crowd in. Give your speaking point this dedicated time and it will be there for you when you need it.
  • The 20-20-20 system calls for rehearsing your material for 20 minutes, then immediately repeating it two more times, giving it 20 minutes on each pass. This process is said to transfer the information into long-term memory storage where you can find it later.
  • Practicing out loud helps you internalize the subject matter. You’ll boost your memory of the presentation topics by hearing them as you say them. It also helps you get more comfortable with the talking part of sharing the information.
  • Use the power of music to engage both brain hemispheres as you learn your material. Listening to music activates both hemispheres and helps you retain more information. If you also sing the presentation, you’ll be amazed at how much you can remember. There’s a large body of research proving the memory-enhancing effect of music, and I’ve seen this technique work wonders many times. Don’t feel goofy about singing about accounting – the results are totally worth it. Besides, it’s fun! (But do try not to burst into song during the real event.)
  • Record yourself delivering the presentation with PowerPoint’s narration tool. Watching the slideshow as you hear yourself speak creates more visual reminders about what you want to say when.
  • Time your rehearsals for right before bedtime. We install new data into long-term memory very effectively while we sleep, so let your brain’s rhythm do some of the work.
  • Strengthen your working memory to make it easier to pay attention and learn new things. There are many tools available to do this online, and some are free. Check out Memory Gym or EasySurf to start, or do a search to find the programs you like best.

Practice with as many of these as you wish, then meet your audience with confidence and a solid grasp of your presentation material. If you do forget something, remember that most of the time the audience won’t know. You can always bring up a point later or simply let it go. As long as you’re calm and confident with what you do share, you’ll make a good impression and help your brand. You can do it!

Are there other memory-enhancing techniques you’ve found effective? Please share them in the comments. It seems we could all do with a little more strength in the memory department.

Follow Sarah:
Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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