How to Memorize a Speech - 3 Simple Memorization Techniques : Smart Memory Power

How to Memorize a Speech – 3 Simple Techniques

No matter what area of work or life you happen to be in, there comes a time when you need to know how to memorize a speech… Ideally, the quicker and easier the better.

Well, I’m here to help you with some ninja memorization techniques so you can get the speech down in no time.

So, let’s begin:

How to Memorize a Speech

how to memorize a speech

The late Steve Jobs was a master of giving great speeches with very few prompts at all.

One of the key ways to make sure you can memorize a speech, or indeed anything, is to make sure that you use multiple ways to remember things. This means using 3 key principles:

  • Association
  • Location
  • Imagination

Most of the following techniques combine these principles in order to make the speech stick in your mind, so that you can recall it more easily.

Turning a Speech into a Journey

When I had a business presentation to make I searched high and low for how to memorize a speech, and this is my favourite method.

This technique will give you clear mental prompts and guides to remember the content of the speech and its order.

It’s known as The Journey (or Loci) Method and I’ve written about it at great length on this blog. For a good introduction to it, check out this Journey Method post and memory exercise.

The technique simply involves picturing a journey in your mind that’s familiar to you, then placing cues at points along the journey to prompt your memory.

When it comes to memorizing a speech, here’s how you can use it:

  1. Break your speech down into clear images that signify things you want to talk about.
  2. Picture a journey, perhaps around your home. Don’t re-enter any room once you’ve left it in your mind. Walk the journey for real a couple of times so that the order is clear.
  3. Now, in your mind, place an item or person at each location to prompt you to talk about a particular topic. For a great demonstration of this, watch this video explanation featuring Joshua Foer.
  4. Whenever you want to recall the speech, simply go on the journey in your mind, stopping at each point and seeing the object or person that will remind you of the next part.
  5. If you need/want to memorize multiple speeches, simply use multiple journeys.

How To Memorize a Speech Using Visual Links

If you need to know how to memorize a speech word-for-word, then this technique may well help you out.

This is one of the more associative methods of remembering, called The Link Method.

With this technique, you form links in your mind between different elements of the speech and actually use them to create images or scenes.

These scenes can then in turn be linked together to form a visual representation of the whole speech.

In terms of learning the speech word-for-word, you can use the Link Method to draw links between certain words or phrases that you find hard to remember.

As an example, let’s just take a couple of lines from a Steve Jobs speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005 and see what images we can create to remind us of it:

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.

Well, apart from the fact that this is the speaker’s own life story (thus making it a lot easier to remember!), there are some lovely images to help you memorize this speech.

  • ‘…getting fired from Apple…’ – I see him getting fired out of a cannon that’s sticking out of a big green apple and looking delighted with himself.
  • ‘…the heaviness of being successful…’ – I see the word success on a chain around his neck, dragging along the floor, stopping him from moving forward.
  • ‘…was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again…’ – For some reason, I picture him floating along, not touching the ground and then floating into a car with a big red ‘L’ for ‘learner’ on the side, showing he’s a beginner.

In this way, I could link all of these together in a comical way and it would provide my memory with a visual prompt for what I wanted to talk about. I can see Steve being fired from the cannon mounted into an apple, but hitting the ground because of the word success weighing him down. He takes it off and floats off and into a car with learner stickers on it…

And now I know exactly what to talk about next!

Going Backwards to Go Forward

I’ve read a number of reports of people learning speeches backwards, and finding that it helps them to memorize it forwards.

how to memorize a speechWhen I say ‘learn it backwards’, I don’t mean you reverse the entire speech. I simply mean that you learn the last line first, then learn the one before it.

So, if the speech ends with: ‘Thank you for listening’, then learn that first. Learn it thoroughly, and then add the previous line, which might be ‘And with that, I’d like to conclude this presentation’.

Once you’ve memorized both lines, run them forwards in the correct order, as if you were finishing the speech for real.

Doing it this way around enables your brain to do a couple of things that memorizing it in the right order may not achieve:

By going backwards through the speech, you get a clearer vision of where you’re going to end up. The structure of the speech is obvious because you’re beginning at the very end.

Also, you’re making your brain work and make connections in a way that you wouldn’t if you just learnt the speech forwards. By creating those connections, your brain is stimulated and is therefore likely to perform better. You’ll remember more quickly and your recall will be smoother.

If you’re struggling to work out how to memorize a speech, then going backwards to go forward may just help you get started.

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Now that you know how to memorize a speech thoroughly, here’s a quick tip for you to use to make the above methods work even better:

  • Review the speech after 24 hours, again after 3 days and again after a week. Then make sure you review and practice it on a regular basis thereafter until you need to give the speech. Repetition will help you remember more.

Enjoyed this post? Got any thoughts or tips on how to memorize a speech? Simply leave a message in the comments section below and we’ll reply as soon as we can. And of course, make sure you use the buttons below or on the left to share this post on Facebook and Twitter.

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Category: Memorization Techniques

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I'm James Gladwell, chief contributor and editor of I'm fascinated by the human mind and I set this site up in order to help people increase their memory power, while I learned how to improve mine. Feel free to leave a comment on the site and let me know how you think I can make the site better.

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