Sometimes speakers may forget important points of their speech. Even worse they might forget entire sections! However, if they get to the recap point in their conclusion and suddenly realize that they may have forgotten something back in the first main point, it is generally best to continue with the conclusion. Sacrificing the momentum or “flow” for the sake of delivering all planned information does little for audience information retention. The audience, unless they have a copy of the outline, will not know that information accidentally got left out, so it is best to save it for another time. Try to sneak the missing information into the Q&A portion of the speech when answering audience questions.
In public speaking terminology, a “bit” refers to a smaller section of interrelated material from a larger speech, such as a main point, an introduction, or a conclusion. Professional speakers do not memorize their talks, but instead, practice their speeches using the concept of bits. They break up their speeches into these bits and then spend time practicing each bit, often out of order. This manner of practice more closely plays to the brains’ strengths since people tend to compartmentalize information when processing it. For example, memorizing a 9-digit number may seem daunting at first, but people do it all the time when remembering their social security number. Most people separate the 9 digits into three bits: a three-digit bit, a two-digit bit, and another three-digit bit. People also do the same for telephone numbers, addresses, and many more important unforgettable items.
Learning a speech in this way helps speakers rapidly and efficiently get away from their notes so as to maintain their full attention on the potential audience. In doing so, the speaker’s credibility automatically rises, since the audience gains the impression of the speaker as a person who knows the material so well that notes become unnecessary. Learning bits to get away from notes also has other benefits, like freeing the speaker from trapping themselves behind the podium. Instead. he or she has the ability to move around the room without carrying anything, placing them closer to the audience, which increases the tendency to create rapport. Learning bits also tends to help people speak more naturally and conversationally. This can also increase confidence by helping the speaker get to know the material more intimately. As a result, practice times become shorter and more efficient as the speaker works on the speech in 3–5 minute increments rather than running through the entire thing all at once.
Mental Preparation Before the Speech
On the day of the speech, public speakers may take certain steps to help put them in the right frame of mind. For exciting and upbeat speech topics, consider listening to music that shares these characteristics. The faster rhythms tend to help establish the right mood for such an occasion. Similarly, speakers with a somber speech topic should consider listening to music that projects the same emotional feeling, likely something slower and more downbeat. Some people choose to develop their passion and vocal power through listening to speeches from famous or powerful orators, such as those found on TED.com or even historical heavyweights such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, or Eleanor Roosevelt. Visit www.americanrhetoric.com to hear what some consider to rank as the greatest and most significant speeches ever presented.
When speaking about potentially emotionally heavy topics, speakers must prepare themselves for an emotional flood. As adrenaline hits the bloodstream, it alters the way people experience their emotions by magnifying their effects. Someone experiencing an adrenaline rush due to the fight-or-flight response that comes with public speaking will be more likely to experience overwhelming emotions than the same person in a normal state of rest. Therefore, if the speech topic, for example, will reference a close and well-loved family member who recently died, that person should be prepared to cope with the inevitable emotional reaction that could bubble up to the surface. Even if such emotions did not surface during practice sessions, it remains highly likely that the same speech, when given in front of an audience, will result in tears that well up, seemingly out of nowhere. If this happens, let it. One of the worst things people can do is to fight the tears if and when they arise, because that will only hinder their ability to continue speaking. Though emotions may arise and overwhelm speakers, if they persevere through the emotion regardless, the audience will likely sympathize with them and respect their decision to continue. Audiences are remarkably empathetic and supportive in such situations.