“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” said the Queen.
This quote from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll well illustrates the issue that novice speakers can suffer from when they start to deliver talks without notes.
There is a temptation to over script and memorise what you have written. The problem then comes when you try to remember your notes, while at the same time trying to read your audience and adapt to your circumstances.
This is when things can go awry, no matter how much preparation you do, as you can’t think both backwards and forwards at the same time.
Try this instead: don’t write out your notes in full. Just divide your speech into a few key sections. For example, you may have a beginning, three main points, and an ending.
Memorise the start and the end, and your three key points, but none of the detail. If you are talking about a familiar subject then this is much easier than you think.
You can then talk around the points, and because you don’t have to remember large amounts of notes you are unlikely to forget them. You can then free up your mind to think forwards, and by doing so, adapt to your audience’s needs and give yourself space to improvise.
It’s a great memory that can think forwards, as well as backwards.