I’m asked this question a lot. And the answer is no. But you should practice your presentation so much that you can say it almost the same way every time. That’s not the same as memorization.
Let me explain.
If you just memorize your presentation, then you’re going to deliver it like you’re just reading it. I once worked with an executive who memorized all of his speeches. Sure he didn’t use notes or a script. And that’s good. But he still sounded like a fifth grader reciting a poem from memory, speaking in a flat nervous voice as he struggled to remember every word. And if, heaven forbid, he forgot something, his speech would falter as he tried to remember his lines. This is what happens when you memorize a speech.
That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t practice a lot. We tell people to memorize the few key phrases that lead into the messages that you want to make under those phrases. If you practice enough, that will be sufficient to allow you to deliver the presentation in a conversation style that connects with your audience.
So let’s say that you’re going to deliver a section of your presentation where you discuss how you will help your listeners lower costs. Your point might be “We’re going to help you lower your costs.” Then you will give a three-point plan on how you will help lower costs. Then you will tell a story about lowering costs. The pattern is “Make the point, Give the Plan, Tell the story.” Once you’re familiar with that pattern, you really only need to remember the point. The rest should flow easily, assuming that you’ve practiced.
And you won’t have to memorize the entire speech.