How to Avoid Sounding “Canned” When You Make a Business Presentation

If you prepare your business presentation by memorizing, you will probably end up sounding “canned” — the quickest way to get prospects, clients, and other business listeners to tune you out.   To avoid this problem, do what the best actors do:  internalize, don’t memorize.

Most actors try to avoid rote memorization of a script, because memorization has a tendency to block the most important part (and the most connective part) of speaking: our communication actions that lie beneath the words.  Effective rehearsal is the rehearsal of communication actions/”objectives” (rather than the words themselves), in order to sound conversational and authentic at every moment.

When I played Amanda in The Glass Menagerie last summer, I was working with a young actor who tried to memorize lines by associating them with his blocking (i.e., where he sat, stood, and moved on stage).  The director changed the blocking many times during our rehearsal process:  of course, the actor then had difficulty remembering his lines!  He was then forced to learn lines with a different strategy: he began to internalize his lines by associating them with his underlying actions/objectives.  This allowed him to not only remember his lines perfectly, but to sound conversational, authentic, and believable.  His lines and physical behavior created a unified, seamless whole.

Business speakers, whether using notes or not, should internalize (not memorize) your content.  You need a strategy to help you become deeply connected to your message, so that listeners will believe that you are fully committed and that you and your message are “one”.

Do the following:  divide your notes for a talk into “beats” (individual topics that are smaller than your overall message).  For each beat, choose a communication action directed toward the listeners.  As you rehearse aloud, focus on the underlying communication action of each beat; keep it at the forefront of your mind, and pursue it energetically.

You will be better able to remember your content fully; you won’t have to worry about “memorizing” anything.  Your voice and body language will support your words,  turning your content and demeanor into one organic, unified, and seamless message.

When you rehearse this way, you’ll never have to worry about “over-rehearsing”, because your rehearsal will never produce a “canned” delivery.  Instead, your rehearsal will help you speak with authenticity and maximum impact.

 

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