No More Blanking Out: Two new neuroscience studies illuminate ways not to forget.
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    No More Blanking Out: Two new neuroscience studies illuminate ways not to forget.

    Every time I discuss “Speaking Up without Freaking Out,” I start with the simple question: “What freaks you out the most about speaking?” Time and time again, I hear the answer: “Forgetting what I intended to say.” While I have written elsewhere about how to increase the likelihood of remembering your presentation (and what to do if we do go blank), I am always looking for new insights to help. I recently came across the following two neuroscience studies that I believe can assist in assuaging the fear of forgetting.

    Test Yourself

    Your high school language teachers had it right. Frequent quizzing helps with memory. Numerous studies have found that cramming to memorize anything, including presentations, is nowhere near as effective as when you test your recall as you steadily learn something. Testing while preparing to deliver a speech might include asking yourself questions such as “what attention grabber am I starting out with?” or “how do I transition between my first two point?” New research now adds to this literature by suggesting that the timing of your testing matters. You should be sure to test yourself immediately after learning – say within the first hour, and then again at regular intervals (e.g., daily). This schedule of testing shows an increased level of accurate recall.

    Speak To Others

    Too often, presenters practice inside their heads and not out loud. It is critical for remembering that you recite your presentation aloud. In so doing, you aid memory by involving not just your verbal memory, but your sensorimotor memory as well. By leveraging both of these memory systems, you increase retention. New research out of the University of Montreal’s Linguistics Department shows that you can turbo charge this memory recall increase if you speak your speech out loud to another person in real time. By having a recipient for your practiced presentation, you additionally invoke other brain systems responsible for interpersonal communication, which further augment recall.

    The Bottom Line: Have someone listen and then test you

    Taken together, this new memory research suggests you can reduce the likelihood of forgetting your presentation if you invite a colleague to not only listen to you, but then have him or her quiz you on what you have said. In so doing, you should boost your recall and reduce blanking out.