I've written about this before, but yesterday was one of those days where every event conspired to scream the same message over and over. I started out the day at church listening to a good message, but was surprised when the speaker was sharing about the first car he bought and was still staring down at notes. I ended the day watching the Superbowl and listening to Christina Aguilera mess up the words of the National Anthem. Both were presenting material that was important and was meant to have impact. Both were trying to engage not only our minds, but our hearts. But in both cases, the impact was capped by the challenges in the delivery. Why? Because it turns out Simon Cowell knows a little something after all – you have to remember the words.
Remembering your words does three things:
1. It Communicates Respect
Whether you want to communicate respect for your audience, respect for the material (if it's not your own), or respect for your trade craft (singing, public speaking, etc), remembering the words is critical. You can't say, like Christina did, that the spirit of the song is what counts and just leave it at that.
2. It Places Focus on the Content
When you stand in front of people, your audience, simply by listening to you, will be able to create a picture in their heads. They can visualize a form of what you're singing or talking about. This is why most performing artists don't walk up on stage (or to the middle of the field) and hold up notes. They want you focused on their performance, not on what's in their hands.
3. Lastly, It Removes Distraction
I've said it before, but it still holds true. If I asked you to share about your most recent vacation you could share for hours without notes. Why? Not because you've prepared, but simply because it left a mark on you. It was significant. It created memories and maybe even changed you. When you sing or speak in public, the focus should be on your content, not on you. So don't wear crazy clothes (unless it's for a point). Don't stand in an awkward position. Don't jingle change in your pocket. And Don't Forget Your Words. Because it's the only thing people will remember.