Here’s How to Memorize a Speech in Less than an HourLooking for a quick and easy way to memorize an entire presentation quickly? Well, the solution to how to memorize a speech in minutes will likely surprise you.

This article covers a few great tips about how great speakers make the presentation memorization process easy and stress-free. First, we will cover the big mistakes that most people make when they design a presentation that makes memorizing the presentation much harder. Forgetting what you want to say is a common phobia even among good speakers. So, the first step is to eliminate bad habits that make memorizing a presentation more difficult.

Next, we cover a few memory techniques that are common among professional speakers. (These tips are fantastic, and they work really well.) However, in the third part, I will show you how to actually design your entire presentation where you won’t have to memorize ANYTHING!

If you use this memory technique, your audience will see you as being absolutely brilliant. (Your speech will also be fantastically easy to deliver.)

Big Mistakes When Designing a Presentation that Makes Memorizing a Speech More Difficult.

Before you actually attempt to memorize a speech, the first thing that you want to do is to eliminate the following preparation mistakes. If you do these things, it won’t matter what memory aid you use. Your presentation will likely be difficult to deliver and boring for the audience. (That’s bad.)

1) Starting with the Visual Aid.

Many presenters will often start by designing a PowerPoint slideshow or some other visual aid. When we do this, we will likely end up with a long list of bullet points. As the speaker prepares to deliver the speech, he/she will often need to try to memorize exactly what he/she wants to say for each of the bullets. (This can be hard, and it adds a lot of unneeded pressure.) Instead, start by designing a good presentation. Then, after you have a great speech determine what visual aids will help your audience understand the content.

2) Writing a Presentation Word-for-Word.

Another big mistake is to write out their entire presentation longhand. Many presenters see delivering a presentation like learning lines in a play. We think that we have to create a script first. If you think about the logical “next steps,”, though, you will quickly see the big challenge. Because, after the script is written, you really only have two choices. Choice one is to just read the entire presentation. (Very boring!) Option two is to memorize the entire speech word-for-word (rote memorization.) That adds an extreme level of complexity to the delivery. It also doesn’t fix the initial problem with option number one. (It is still going to be very boring.) To fix this, just create a simple outline of your major points.

3) Data Dumping.

The hardest problem to overcome is called “data dumping.” This is where we give too much information in too short a period of time. When we design presentations, we often think that in order to present well, we have to tell the audience EVERYTHING that we know about the topic all at once. In reality, though, a few points covered really well will be better received than a bunch of points covered in a cursory fashion. We suggest that you limit your main points to five or fewer.

The good news is that once you eliminate these challenges, the next step is pretty easy — choose a memory technique based on the structure of our speech.

If you feel like you are making one or more of these mistakes when you design your presentations, make sure to view/listen to Podcast #3 How to Design a Presentation Quickly. We also have an Online Presentation Course that will walk you step-by-step through an easy process to create a great presentation.

How to Memorize a Speech in Just a Few Minutes. (Memory Hack)

The human brain is a fantastic hard drive that can store vast amounts of information. However, most people don’t really understand how to efficiently use this fantastic organ effectively. All that you need to know to improve your memory dramatically in just a few minutes is to realize that your mind thinks in pictures.

When presenters make the mistake of writing out their speeches word-for-word, they will next try to memorize the presentation word-for-word as well. We look at the words on the paper, and we get overwhelmed. You see, our minds don’t remember the written words. We remember the images that those words create in our minds.

An Ancient Memory Technique that Assigns Mental Images for Each Part of Your Speech

The Stacking Technique is an ancient technique used to memorize the most important specific points of your presentation. You can actually memorize a whole speech, by focusing on the main ideas of the presentation — not a word-for-word recitation. Start by creating an outline of the speech. Break the speech into component parts. Then, just create a mental image for each point.

Here is a specific example. Let’s say I was giving the following presentation…

Our Plan to Increase Profit Next Quarter.

  1. Cut Costs by Buying Materials in Bulk.
  2. Decrease Rework by Improving Communication with Our Customers.
  3. Reach Out to Our Existing Satisfied Customers for Additional Orders.

All I would have to do to remember the main concepts is to create a mental image for each bullet point. For the first bullet point, I could create the image of a price tag being cut with a pair of scissors. This will help me remember to speak about cutting costs. For point two, I could picture a golfer who slices his shot and then secretly drops a new ball onto the fairway. The Mulligan golfer will help me remember to speak about reducing rework. For the final point, I could picture an employee with arms stretching 20 feet to shake hands with a customer. This will help me remember to speak about reaching out to happy customers.

To improve the chance of memorizing each item, add some type of action going from one image to the next. For instance, I start with the giant scissors cutting the price tag. The pieces of the price tag fall with a thud on either side of the startled golfer in mid-swing. As a result, his shot goes way off course. The disgruntled golfer looks around nervously and drops a new ball where his previous ball had laid. As he swings a second time, the ball slices around one of our employees. She has super-stretchy arms that are over 20 feet long. With her right hand, she reaches out to shake hands with a happy customer.

This technique works well even if you have to deliver a large number of bullet points. Just add a new image for each new bullet point. Practice the list of images with a friend to move the images to long-term memory.

The Best Way to Memorize a Speech: Mind Map it Out in Your Memory Palace

If you have ever seen a professional keynote speaker come on stage and deliver an entire hour-long presentation without any notes, he/she probably used the Mind Palace technique. (Also called the Mind Palace, Palace Technique, or Room Technique.) This technique is similar to the Stacking Technique, but instead of memorizing the images in sequential order, the images are placed within a location that you know extremely well. So, just like in the Stacking Technique, you create an image for each main point in your presentation.

Next, pick a location you can easily remember in great detail. It could be your house, office, or even the meeting room or banquet hall if you want. Then create a logical ‘route,’ based on which room or piece of furniture that you see first. For example, when you open the front door of your home, what is the first room that you enter?

After deciding on a route, imagine taking that route and focusing on the rooms or items AND the order that you see them. Using my home as an example, when I enter through the front door, I’m standing in the formal living room. The first piece of furniture that I see is the sofa to my left. This is where my dog sleepily wags her tail when I first enter. To my right is my wife’s office. Straight ahead is the formal dining area with the big table that is only used when my family visits on a holiday. Next is the smaller living area where the TV and comfy sofas are. Finally is the kitchen with the island in the middle.

Since I know this route and the specific locations really well, I can easily insert the images that we prepared in the Stacking Section. Instead of seeing my dog on the formal sofa, there is an oversize pair of scissors cutting a price tag. On my wife’s desk is the disgruntled golfer. Seated at the head of the formal dining table is my employee with her arms stretched all the way across the table to shake hands with a happy customer. If I had a fourth point, it would be watching TV. The fifth point would be on the kitchen island.

Add Details with Additional Pictures

Once you have the outline memorized, you can add additional images to represent additional content. For instance, for the first point about bulk orders, let’s say that you want to tell a story to reinforce the point. Last week, we ordered three separate supplies on three different orders and paid shipping fees for each delivery. If we had prepared the orders all at once, we would have saved money on shipping. A good image to help you remember this story is three sailing ships. (This represents the three separate shipments.)

In addition, let’s say that you want to underscore this opportunity by ending with an analogy. For instance, if you are going to fly to three different cities where clients are located, and you will only spend a single day with each, you will save a lot of money (and time) by organizing the trips in a single week. If you made the trips separately, in three different weeks, you’d pay more for your airline tickets and spend way more time at airports. It would also take you at least six days for all of the trips (three traveling and three with the clients.) However, if you left on a Tuesday, visited a client on Wednesday, flew to another city on Thursday, and then another on Friday, you’d spend a lot less time and money.

That is what we want to do with our ordering. Instead of having three people place three orders, paying for shipping for each of the orders, and having three people process the intake when the three orders arrive, we do it all at once. A single order, a single shipping cost, and a single intake. To remember this analogy, I could create an image of a Trident. (A single weapon with three points.)

Going back to the image of the Scissors on my formal sofa, well that sofa has three cushions. The left-most cushion has the scissors. The middle cushion has three ships. And, finally, the third cushion has a trident sticking into it. I can do the same for each room that I created using the Palace Technique.

How to Deliver Your Entire Speech without Memorizing ANYTHING!

By the way, we teach both of these memory techniques in our presentation skills classes. However, almost no one who comes through our classes ever uses either of these techniques.

What? Did you say no one ever uses these techniques to memorize a presentation?

Yes. Delivering a memorized speech is actually a terrible way to give a presentation.

If you design a really good presentation in the first place, you won’t really need to memorize anything. The technique that we teach in our classes is to focus on just a few, key concepts related to what your audience wants or needs to know about your topic. Then, create a visual aid with just those key bullet points on it. Since your bullet points are right there on your slideshow or visual aid, you don’t really need to memorize them. Then, for each of you bullets, come up with a compelling story, interesting analogy, or some other type of “attention getter.”

If you prepare and practice a few items like this for each of your main bullet points, then, when you deliver the presentation, just internally ask yourself, “How can I best explain this concept to my audience?” The answer will always be one or more of the items that you prepared.

A presentation like this will be much more spontaneous and interesting than a memorized presentation.

For additional help, make sure to visit our 101 presentation tips for public speaking blog post.

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