The answer is Yes and No.  Is that clear enough?

No. Never memorize an entire speech.  While some people contend that memorizing a speech allows the speaker to connect with their audience and to avoid falling into the trap of using clichés and slang, we often see the opposite result:  the speaker loses their place, then starts to falter in their delivery, resulting in all sorts of “mayhem and foolishness.”

There are very few people who can memorize a speech and deliver it in a way that doesn’t sound rehearsed.  The rest of us sound like we’re reading the air in front of us.  And when we lose our place, our eyes go up or down, and our facial expression gives it away (after I wrote this, one of my clients who had memorized his entire speech repeated the same word every time he lost his place).

Yes. Memorize key aspects of your speech:  the introduction, the conclusion and the key points you want to make.  We tell our clients to memorize the first two sentences of their introduction, and the last two sentences of their conclusion (see Primacy/Recency post).  This strategy ensures that you capture the attention of your audience with your vivid language rather than distract with word fillers like “um” and “ah.”

Most speeches fall into the extemporaneous category (think smooth and dynamic), which means that finding a conversational tone is essential.  Your true personality cannot shine through when you have memorized three pages of text.  Your brain will be so focused on getting every word out that nothing else will come through.

– Barbara Roche