Working Memory and Public Speaking Anxiety

December 4, 2010

I have been helping speakers with their presentation skills for many years now, and the more I learn about working memory (WM) the more I wonder whether a weak WM can be a source of public speaking anxiety. WM is the ability to hold on to information while you use it in your thinking. A good WM can help a speaker screen out distractions while he/she addresses one point at time. If the mind is preoccupied with audience approval or thoughts of impending calamities, accessing that information no matter how well rehearsed may be faulty. This also goes for the Q and A session where one must screen out distractions, remember the question and relate an answer. Public speaking requires some fancy “multi-tasking” no doubt. The question is: would improving one’s working memory make one more comfortable in front of a crowd?
Rebecca Shafir M.A.CCC

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