The Perils of Working Without a Net

(Knowing the things you can’t afford to Forget)

If you’re going to put yourself under pressure – especially on TV in front of millions of people you’re desperate should see you as the next leader of the free world – it’s probably a good idea to get your act together.

I and other Working Voices’ trainers bang on about being prepared for any presentation you make, whatever its size. We do it in class and in the Working Voices’ BLOG. For instance, the last BLOG I did on the topic is here. It was short and to the point but that point was crystal clear. Perhaps Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Perry should have taken it.

You might have seen this clip of Rick Perry, in effect, forgetting his lines:

But they weren’t just any old lines. They were the lines he most wanted to get across and his audience to remember. (By the way, the Departments he was trying to remember were Education, Commerce and Energy.)

It’s character building to make your major presentations “without a net” (entirely without any form of script or memory-jogging assistance), but if that’s what you plan to do, at least do this as well:

  1. Identify the absolute key messages you MUST remember AND the things you find yourself repeatedly tripping over when you’re rehearsing.
  2. Abbreviate them clearly in CAPITALS on a small card – preferably in the form of an initialism or mnemonic.
  3. Rehearse so as to get used to referring discreetly to the card during your presentation as necessary
  4. Keep the card out of sight during the presentation and ready to use in case of need.

The card is dual purpose. Yes it’s something you can refer to during the presentation if you need to but, most of all, it’s a confidence booster. Something you know is there if you hesitate – which, because it’s there, you probably won’t!

Here’s a detailed article about what went wrong for Mr Perry. The final paragraph is helpful. But using the method I’ve just described, I’d have done something more simple. I’d have taken the three departments Rick forgot and jotted them on my card either as EDUCATION, COMMERCE AND ENERGY or, the mnemonic EDCOMEN.

Either one beats UM … ER … UM, Mr President.

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