Deliver Your Best Speech or Presentation Now (and the power of association)

Aug 25, 2011

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you ever watched Steve Jobs speak? If not, check it out his presentation about the Ipad here. The guy can flat out speak. It seems easy to him. He flows. I can assure you he’s used the power of association when presenting. All the best to Mr. Jobs as he announced his resignation today as CEO of Apple.

I participated in a Toastmasters competition this morning. In recent weeks, I learned a method of memorization that helps with speech making. Today was my first effort to jump in full force with this method. Although it’s still a work in progress, I’m very happy with the initial results.

Let me give you the high level view, and then I will walk through the process I used for this particular speech.

Essentially, the idea is to associate your topic with some physical object (pickup the The Memory Book for a comprehensive view on this). For example, if you’re speaking about ways to increase you energy, and the three ways are 1 – Sleep more, 2 – Eat smaller/more consistent meals and, 3 – Work in Sprints, you can find objects/ideas to associate with each. It’s sometimes good to picture outrageous objects, which will help you remember more than just regular ones.

1 – Sleep more – Picture a huge bear hibernating in the winter

2 – Eat smaller/more consistent meals – Picture a bird feasting on salmon throughout the day

3 – Work in Sprints – Picture a Gazelle sprinting through the jungle, and then stopping to catch its breath, then sprinting again.

Now, let me take you through the speech prep for mine…

It was a humorous speech contest. I found it to be a challenge to come up with a topic. Once I got going, however, and used this association technique. My speech was about lessons learned since I got married (in 2006). The premise was that prior to living with my wife (or any significant other), we get to do our own thing and live like we want (aka be a slob if you want to). In this case, I talked about lessons I’ve learned through this co-habitation process.

I articulated four lessons in my speech:

Making the bed the wrong way – My association was simply picturing my bed and the process to make it….then, picturing in my head my wife showing me how it’s “really” done. Pillows have to be exact (we have like 7 pillows!) and the stitching on the sides have to be lined up perfectly….who would think : )

So, I’m not allowed to make the bed anymore.

Not hanging clothes when I’m finished with them – My association was simply going from bed to the two sitting chairs we have in the room. I tend to take off my clothes after work or working out and putting them on these chairs. After all, we rarely sit in them. We need to put them to good use, don’t we : )?

Not picking up stuff if it’s at the bottom of the steps – My association was taking those same clothes from the chair and taking them down stairs. Instead of putting them in the wash, I set them on the 1st step. I think maybe it’s because I never had stairs growing up, so I feel like I need to make use of the stairs. My wife kindly will tell me that’s a bad excuse. I’m learning, what can I say.

What association will do for you when giving speeches or making presentations:

Make practice more efficient – Once you outline what you want to deliver, pare it down to the key points. Think about what you can associate with each. Make it flow as much as you can. If you have to get wild and crazy with what you visualize, feel free. I’ve found that I can get right into practicing.

Lessen preparation time – With this new association strategy, you will start to notice your prep time decreasing. Where before, you may practice 5-7 times (that’s what I typically do), now 3-4 will work.

Help you take on a nature tone in your presentation – I couldn’t believe how natural I felt presenting. Instead of using notes as a crutch, you’re able to go with the flow and rely on your association mechanisms.

99% of people say that public speaking is their greatest fear after death (read my post on conquering this fear here). That’s an amazing stat. I get it. It’s frightening. It’s a challenge. There are ways, however, to hone your skills and make it strength of yours.

Be brave and jump into speaking. Toastmasters is a great way to improve and “get your reps.”

Thanks for reading and be well.


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