Thanks for the Memories

By Heather Baldwin

If you can’t remember where you put your car keys, you may have trouble giving a strong sales presentation. What does one have to do with the other? Memory. While we’re certainly not suggesting you memorize your speech – experts agree you’ll come off as too stilted and not adaptable to the audience if you do – memory skills are essential to a good presentation. Otherwise you’re likely to spend your entire presentation clutching notes or worrying you’ll forget what you’re going to say, and that puts you at an immediate disadvantage.

“Having any kind of memory aid, such as notes or cards, is a real problem because it gets between you and your audience and dilutes your message,” says Graham Jones, managing director of The Presentation Business, a United Kingdom-based company specializing in training clients to give great presentations. “Also, research tells us that people who use notes are less credible than people who have no form of tangible memory trigger.”

To understand how you can better remember your presentation, it helps to first understand why you might have problems with your memory. The main reason is simply lack of preparation. If you’ve prepared and rehearsed adequately, you’ll remember your material, says Jones. Another cause of forgetfulness is memory overload – cram too much into your presentation and you set yourself up for a lapse in memory. Stick with one key message, says Jones, and you’ll likely remember everything you want to say. Finally, memory problems can stem from the fear of forgetting. If you’re consumed by your fear of drawing a blank, chances are you probably will. To overcome your fear, remind yourself that the audience never knows the content of your presentation, so they’ll never know if you forgot something.

So, what can you do to improve your memory? Jones says the best method, after making sure you have thoroughly prepared and rehearsed, is to use a formula for every presentation so your material is always in the same order. The Presentation Business uses a template system called, “Why? How? Prove It!” Presenters using this template hit the audience with a key message within the first 15 seconds. They follow up by telling the audience why they should take action and how they should achieve the suggested goal. Finally, the presenter proves what he or she has said using personal examples, case studies and statistics. Using a template like this, says Jones, “really helps people remember their presentation.”

For more information, including details about Presentation Business’s memory skills course, visit For more on the “Why? How? Prove It!” method, visit