Speaking Without Notes

In Front of the Lectern

Carl H. Hendrickson, DTM

The ancient Greeks and Romans would speak for hour after hour without notes. But many Toastmasters, novice and veteran alike, cannot leave the comfort zone of the lectern or do away with their crutch – their notes. But, by knowing a few memory “tricks,” each of us can give flawless speeches in front of the lectern without notes.

Early Greeks and Romans used the Loci System, memorization by association. Each item in the forum where they spoke would be a memory tool. This will work for South County Toastmasters. Each speech should contain no more than five parts, several less. We have the opening, up to three main points, and the closing.

Using the Loci System, identify a constant item in the meeting room to associate with each part of the speech. An easel always is present, as is the presiding officer of the meeting, the evening’s Toastmaster, the lectern, and the flag and flagpole. Your opening thus is the easel, points one, two and three are respectively the presiding officer, the Toastmaster, and the lectern, and the flag and flag pole represent the closing.

In a recent humorous speech, I spoke of my wife’s unmentionables, meaning four letter words that I could not use around her, such as bake, cook, iron, and wash. However, “unmentionables” also could be undergarments. If this is your opening, think of the easel with undergarments draped over them. Another recent speech by a club member was on cleaning up the environment – going green. Assuming this is point one of your presentation, picture the presiding officer sitting with a green face. If you want to conclude by motivating the members to go out and purchase an item or a book, you could picture the flag waving “bye bye.” Using the Loci System, the speech is easily broken down into no more than five parts and each part is associated with an item in the meeting room used in a ridiculous manner for ease of remembering.

Once the five speech parts have been determined, you link one to the other. Nothing ruins a good speech like having the presenter move from the opening to point three and missing points one and two. There must be a logical progression. As an example of linking, here are five words or phrases that can be linked by last word to first word of the next: (1) egg, (2) eggshell, (3) shell macaroni (4) macaroni and cheese, and (5) cheese pizza. (1) Egg makes one think of (2) eggshell, which leads to (3) shell macaroni, then to (4) macaroni and cheese, and then to (5) cheese pizza.

Memory aids are helpful. Picture five homes sitting along a sandy beach. You have the five great lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Picture a handsome hulk of a man, no, not Carl Hendrickson, but Roy G Biv. You now have a memory aid for the seven primary colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Each can step out of his/her comfort zone, to the front of the lectern, and speak without notes by utilizing the Loci System and memory aids. Try it!

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