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Public Speaking Tips: How to Handle Memory Lapses

Updated on November 26, 2013

The Writer at seventy-five and looking every bit that age

Yes, that's a self-portrait of me taken a arms length.  The beard doesn't help.  My wife insisted I shave it off.
Yes, that's a self-portrait of me taken a arms length. The beard doesn't help. My wife insisted I shave it off.

You're a public speaker? Well, you will get better with age

Welcome to Speaking Tips:How to Handle Memory Lapses.

As a member of Toastmasters International, I’ve journeyed through my thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and am now in my seventies. This makes me a senior with all the blessings and shortcoming which come with a public speaker of my generation.

I recently read two articles the in The Toastmaster Magazine in which the subject of temporary memory loss came up: blanking out, or losing one’s train of thought whilst in the middle of a presentation. Various strategies were provided in these articles to get around this problem.

The writer at seventy-three. A moustache is not quite as bad, eh?

Here I am as a contestant in one of those innumerable public speaking contests Toastmasters run.
Here I am as a contestant in one of those innumerable public speaking contests Toastmasters run.

A Toastmaster who speaks often is bound to succeed

However, in these instances much of the angst experienced by these Toastmasters was caused by nervousness brought on by their focusing on how they are delivering their subject matter. That is, they were focusing on how the audience perceives them rather than their audience’s needs. They were thinking not only about the content but the way it was being delivered and how the audience would perceive that delivery and thus, them. A common enough occurrence, but one which can be considerably ameliorated or even ignored altogether if one is concentrating entirely on the audience’s needs and not on one’s own.

It is true that even the most experienced of public speakers can lose his or her place and temporarily forget it place in a prepared speech. But that is not what I am getting at here.

The writer at seventy-two. No beard or moustache - takes a few years off the countenance

Here I am addressing a Christmas party group of 'Computer Pals,' Christmas 2008.
Here I am addressing a Christmas party group of 'Computer Pals,' Christmas 2008.

People's names, place names and the Senior's moment

No, the typical senior’s moment occurs when one needs to recall names – generally people’s names. Seniors, of course, have long worked out strategies to avoid embarrassment. One way is to use such terms as “Buddy, mate, pal, champ, brother’ and, in the more modern parlance, ‘bro.’ Moreover, if the senior is absolutely desperate, ‘you,’ until the elusive name comes up.

A wise senior realizes that to attempt to ‘dig out,’ or ‘go after’ the missing name or label will only push it further down in the mind. However, an important point for all to remember is this: No one ever forgets anything. I’ll repeat that, for it is important. No one ever forgets anything. Recall, particularly speed of recall, is the problem. Regressive hypnotherapy techniques can uncover the minutest detail of our experiences right back to the time when we were born. Nothing is forgotten! So the second most important point to remember in this: it is there. We only have to uncover it or bring it to the surface. And we can do this best by developing our trust. We must learn to trust our memory.

Yep, me again. This time around seventy

Addressing a Proubus Club.  I've attended 148 Probus clubs, many more than once - one twelve times!   They love a Storyteller.
Addressing a Proubus Club. I've attended 148 Probus clubs, many more than once - one twelve times! They love a Storyteller.

No one every forgets anything! It's speed of recall which causes the trouble

The famous cosmetic surgeon and psychologist, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, proclaimed in his bestselling book, Psycho-cybernetics, that our servo-mechanistic mind learns by ignoring the misses and concentrating and correcting as it steadies towards its goal. So we are to ignore – that is, put out of our mind’s the misses – and reinforce the hits. We can do the latter by being aware, grateful, and glad of the hits.

Trust your memory

Trust your memory. Forget the miss. It was only an inability to recall that particular piece of information at that time. Trust that it will come to you and, often as not, it will within a few seconds or minutes. But even if it does not, it will come up later; sometimes hours, days, weeks, and months later. When it does come to you, do a number of things: feel grateful, feel glad. Write down the name of the person or thing. Read it out loud. In this way you are acknowledging that part of yourself which has delivered. You are strengthening this servo-mechanistic part of your own subconscious mind. It is being praised and like an animal which has received, strokes, pats and a morsel of food, will be that much more willing to help you – particularly in speed of delivery – in the future. Treat this eventual retrieval as important and your get more retrievals more often and more rapidly.

Never made the Big League in Toastmaster Contests

Here I am in possession of another Club Trophy.  Club, Area, and a single Divisional  Contest many years ago, the last my highest TMI achievement.   Still wondering what I'm doing wrong... Post Script!.  Made it to Divisional Level in 2013.  Hurrah!
Here I am in possession of another Club Trophy. Club, Area, and a single Divisional Contest many years ago, the last my highest TMI achievement. Still wondering what I'm doing wrong... Post Script!. Made it to Divisional Level in 2013. Hurrah!

The subject of memory is worth at least a cursory study believe me

Also, remember the Memory Graph when committing things you wish to learn to memory. That graph has the axes, Time and Retention. But we will need to deal with that in another essay. This one has become long enough.

I hope you enjoyed Speaking Tips: How to Handle Memory Lapses.

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