Presenting without slides or notes can happen by accident or on purpose, but how do you do it? It’s not about memorization, but internalization. With memorization, you’re thinking about which word comes next. Internalization, however, is about remembering which concept comes after which concept.
When it comes to presenting without slides or notes, there’s a golden rule you should always go by. If it’s too much information for you to remember, it is definitely too much information for your audience to remember. That means you need to scale back the information you put in your presentation to the point that you can internalize it without notes. That way we know our audience can also internalize our message.
How do you simplify your message? Anchor it to the kinds of things we all remember: what do people want? Why do they want it? And what do they do as a result? You can translate these questions into pieces of the Red Thread. Use the Goal, the Problem, the Truth, the Change, and the Actions to address all three of these questions and make your message clear.
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– Sometimes we’re in a situation where we either want or need to present without slides or notes. But how do you do that without a.) being terrified, or b.) forgetting what you’re going to say? Well that’s exactly what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread. I’m your host Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. If you’re a fan, please do me a favor, like and subscribe.
Presenting without slides or notes is something that can happen either on purpose or on accident. We want to avoid the “on accident” part where you forget the notes or the slides break or the computer goes down, and you have to do it anyway. Or, because on purpose, you want the effects of what it looks like to see or be that person who can just speak from the stage. Speak from the front of the meeting room confidently, clearly and coherently.
And so a lot of times we think that must mean we need to memorize things. And I’ve spoken before about how it’s not just about memorization, it’s about internalization of the information. If we memorize, we’re trying to figure out what word comes after what word. When we internalize, we’re thinking about what concept comes after what concept, and why am I talking about these things in this way.
That’s critically important, but ultimately what it comes down to is the relationship between memorization and information. And when it comes to presenting without slides or notes, there’s this important thing that is true for everyone. And that is, if it’s too much information for you to remember, it is definitely too much information for your audience to remember.
So, what does that mean? Hopefully, the answer is fairly obvious. We need to scale back the information we put into any presentation to a point where it is something that we can internalize without notes. Because that way we know that our audience could also internalize it without notes.
We can support that with handouts and other things that give additional detail, but we want to make sure that the points come across consistently.
How do we do that? Well, we need to anchor to the kinds of things that both you and they will remember. And there’s good news there because we all anchor and remember the same kinds of things. Which is, what do people want? Why do they want it? What are they doing as a result? And the “they” may be themselves but ultimately comes down to that.
There’s even this great study that I think I’ve mentioned before out of Princeton. They showed everyone an episode of the TV show, Sherlock, asked people to recall what happened from it. And what was interesting was while people remember different details, what they did remember consistently were the major plot points. What people wanted, why they wanted it, and what happened as a result.
So if you, at the very simplest, anchor your presentation, your message around that, what do we want, why do we want it, what needs to happen as a result, you will always be within a framework. That’s going to help you remember and internalize the information that you’re trying to present. And keep it to a level of information that your audience can remember— yay!
Now, more specifically you can, of course, use the pieces of The Red Thread for this. After all, I developed The Red Thread as a way to help the TEDx Cambridge speakers learn how to internalize their talks by remembering the five major points that they needed to get across.
The first was the Goal: what people want. What is something that the audience actively wants that the idea will help them get?
Second piece: the Problem. What’s the real problem that’s getting in the way of that goal?
Third: the Truth. Either a universal axiom, which is a little bit redundant or something that, because oftentimes these were researchers, they discovered that revealed a new truth about the world. Something that leads to a Change in thinking, or a recommended change in approach, and the specific Actions that will make that change possible.
So, by doing that we’re answering those questions of what do people want, why do they want it, and what happens as a result, in a very specific way that you can internalize. Just internalize those pieces of your message in that framework, and you’ll remember it without slides, or without notes, every time.
That’s this week’s episode of Find the Red Thread. I’m your host Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. There’s lots more information about how to build presentations in the recording for my Presentation workshop, Building Blocks for Better Talks, which you can find at tamsenwebster.com/blocksfortalks.