How to Memorize Speeches and Presentations – The Ultimate Guide

Microphone Presentations SpeechesDelivering speeches and presentations without notes is an extremely effective way to improve your delivery and confidence in public speaking.

In this guide I am going to teach you everything you need to know to memorize the key points of your speeches.

What is currently holding you back from speaking without notes or slides?

The reason is probably lack of confidence in your memory, or the fear of ‘blanking’ on stage.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public”George Jassel

You can conquer these fears by using the powerful methods that I am about to show you.

Ok! Lets dive right into it

Section 1 – The Link/Chain Method

link-chain-method-memory-training

In my experience, memorizing speeches word-for-word tends to sound overly rehearsed with poor delivery for most people.

It is better to break up speeches and presentations into key points and then memorize those points.

I’m going to show you a very simple technique to help you memorize these points. It is known as the ‘link’ or ‘chain’ method. We will later build on this method to allow for more powerful recall with a much larger amount of items.

A very basic example:

link-method-memorizeImagine you are delivering a speech about your background and passions, and you have just five points to remember.

You already know this information about yourself so you just need these cues throughout the speech to help you move throughout:

  1. Education
  2. Family
  3. Football
  4. Swimming
  5. Travelling

Our memories naturally work very effectively using association and imagination. So let’s use this to our advantage instead of monotonously trying to memorize them by ‘rote’ or repetition.

How to Memorize using the Link Method:

Try to close your eyes and imagine the following. You are in your old school classroom (education), a member of your family is sitting in the seat next to you. Try to picture the family member and try to rationalize as to why they might be there.

The family member picks up a giant exaggerated sized football and throws it out through the window into a swimming pool.

A man is struggling to swim in the pool because he is carrying a very heavy travelling backpack.

Reviewing the points

Once you’ve imagined each of the key points, now go through this story in your imagination and try to say each of the words out loud.

Did you remember all 5 points? Leave a comment at the bottom of this guide and let me know!

While rehearsing and delivering the speech, you can simply go through the chain in your head again.

As an added bonus, if you review them enough you will naturally remember each of the points without even relying on the pictures.

The above is just an example, the images should be personal to you and should represent the item you are trying to remember effectively for you.

Common questions and answers:

Q - “Is it possible to remember more than a few points with the chain system?”
A – Yes, the chain can go on for as long as you want it but I generally use it for smaller lists. It can be limited because if you forget on part of the chain, you may struggle to remember everything after that. Though it does demonstrate the power of association and imagination. The next section will describe a more powerful technique that can be used with a virtually unlimited number of items!
Q – “Football, swimming, etc, are all tangible things, what about words I cannot imagine”
A – You can substitute them for something you can imagine. Think in pictures. If you have to remember the number 7 you could use its number-shape to imagine a cliff face. Alternatively you could rhyme the word ‘seven’ with ‘heaven’ and imagine something related to heaven. Another example is the word ‘Database’, you could imagine a box with lots of page scraps of information, or an army base with animated ‘1s’ and ‘0s’ to represent digital information. Make a ridiculous picture that is personal to you and it will become even more memorable!

Exercises to start right now:

1) Practise the link/chain method with other words and key points.

Pick random objects and try to imagine them in sequence in the same manner as the previous example. Here is an example list: Airplane, guitar, pen, computer, car, cell phone, tree, book, bottle, drum.

2) If you have a speech in mind, try to break it down to only the most important key points. More on this later!

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Section 2 – The Journey Method

journey-memory-technique

The Journey or ‘Loci’ method of memorizing is thousands of years old.

Honestly, the first time I came across this technique, I thought it would be completely ineffective and actually ignored it multiple times, but how wrong I was!

I later found out that almost every memory champion or memory expert uses a version of this as their primary technique.

After giving it a chance, I soon came to realise just how simple and powerful it is to use.

I’ve created this infographic to help you quickly understand how this method works.

journey-method-how-to-memorize-speeches

Memorizing a Longer Speech with the Journey Method

Let’s say you have a speech with 10 points you wish to memorize. Instead of using the link/chain method from the previous lesson, we will associate the images along a familiar path or journey in our mind.

The Speech Topic
Imagine that you are a man from New York that has just joined a local public speaking club. You are going to deliver an introductory speech about your life and passions.

You have decided to note the following 10 points to use for your speech.

You do not need to memorize these just yet. I will be guiding you through this very soon!

  • New York
  • Family
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Golf
  • Hole in 1
  • Drums
  • Running
  • Travelling
  • Excited
Note: In this section I am explaining a lot of visual examples in detail. However it is VERY QUICK when you are doing it in your own head!

Step 1 – Create your journey

Close your eyes. Pick a familiar journey in your mind and identify 10 different stages along this.

Example: Journey around my house:

  1. Bedroom
  2. Hallway
  3. Bathroom
  4. Stairs
  5. Living Room
  6. Kitchen
  7. Back Door
  8. Back garden porch
  9. Shed
  10. Wall at the end of the garden.

Before you move onto the next stage, make sure that you have a 10 stage journey created in your imagination.

Close your eyes and review the journey, saying each of the stage numbers out loud as you are going.

Step 2 – Think in Pictures: Plant the Key Speech Points Along Your Journey

Now associate each of items with the stages on your journey. Use as much of your imagination as possible.

ape thinking

Some of these suggestions may appear ridiculous and even child-like, this is what you should be aiming for!

Start and the first stage of your journey…

1) New York – The man grew up in New York so he chooses this as his first point. Try to pick something personal to you that will remind you of New York, e.g. the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, a friend of yours from New York, etc.

Now try to associate that with your location. If your first stage is the bedroom, you could imagine a smaller version of the Empire State Building weighing down your bed, or the Statue of Liberty taking to you from the corner!

Ridiculous and bizarre pictures are often the most memorable.

family2) Family – Now go to the next stage in your head and try to associate a mental picture of ‘family’ to it.

Perhaps a family member could be there jumping at the wall or doing an action or activity they always do, etc.

 

education3) Education – Associate a mental picture of ‘Education’ to the 3rd stage of your journey. This could be either an old school teacher (having people in your journeys tend to make them more memorable), somebody wearing a graduation gown, a school chair, etc.

 

Now try to associate the remaining words with each respective stage of your journey, suggestions and ideas are included.

business4) Occupation – Ideas: Imagine your boss or co-worker. You could also associate your job type to the scene, e.g. if you are a Dentist you could imagine a giant mouth, or if you are a computer programmer you could imagine computers all over the floor, etc.

5) Golf – Ideas: A famous golfer, someone using a golf-club as a weapon, a giant talking golf-ball, etc.

6) Hole in 1 – This is where the man would like to talk about a story of when he got a Hole in 1 while playing golf. As this is a number you could use the number shape (e.g. a Pen, Pencil), or rhyme (e.g. Gun, Bun). So you could imagine a Hole in the Wall with a Gun in the middle.

drums7) Drums – The man is a drummer. Associate somebody smashing a drum kit and cymbals in your stage. If you can try to imagine the sound as it reverberates in your location then you’ll likely not forget it!

 

8) Running: Ideas: A famous runner, a sprinter running on the spot, a runner passing through the finish line. You could also go obscure and imagine an animated pair of sneakers running back and forth throughout the room.

9) Travelling: Ideas: A traveler with a giant back-pack, an airplane or a segment of an airplane at your stage, a beach-like environment, etc.

happy10) Excited: The last point is just ‘excited’, which is a cue for the man to talk about how excited he is about joining this public speaking club.

For this you could imagine the most excited person you know jumping up and down, or you could imagine a giant animated emoticon in your stage!

So those are the 10 stages. I hope you could associate some crazy images to them!

Now go back to the start and walk through the journey in your head, while trying to say each word aloud.

Did you remember all of the points? Let me know by commenting at the bottom of this article!

Reviewing and rehearsing the key points

Just like in the Link/Chain system, while rehearsing and delivering the speech, you can simply go through the journey in your head again. As an added bonus, if you review them enough you will naturally remember each of the points without even relying on the pictures.

Common questions and answers:

Q) What if I cannot remember one of the items?
A) Go back to the stage and replace the item with a new one. Make it as visual as possible.
Q) Can I reuse these journeys?
A) If you want to commit the items to your Long Term memory then you simply need to review the journey in your head within around 24 hours and then within the next week. After that you may need to refresh it in your head within a month or two after that. Alternatively if you do not do this, then you may forget the items and then you can re-use the journey for other items.
Q) Is it more hassle to have to remember these locations, as well as the items?
A) No, you already know the locations. Once you’ve quickly picked the stages then you are good to go.
Q) Is there a limit to how many stages I can make on my journeys?
A) It’s up to you. You can have virtually unlimited lengths of journeys. You will be surprised at how many familiar paths you have in your mind when you start to think about it. I usually limit them to around 50 or 100 per journey so I can manage them better in my head.

Section 3 – How to Structure your Speech for Easy Memorability

planning-organise-your-speech

Yesterday we took our first steps towards learning how to use the Journey method. Now we are going to go more in-depth into how to apply this to your speeches or presentations.

1) Always do this before memorizing your speech or presentation…

Beginner speakers often fail to properly organize their speeches, which can lead to waffling, confusion from the audience, and poor speech delivery.

Your speech should serve a purpose and contain the following:

Introduction: Introduce the topics to the audience. You can either use a basic overview, introduce yourself and the topics, or begin with a story that builds suspense.

Main body: The main body of the speech or presentation is where you should pick a few key points or stories and elaborate on them. The goal should be to stay concise on these while still covering the necessary material. Less is more when it comes to speeches.

Note: Expect the audience to only take away a small number of points from your speech. Examine your plan and eliminate any unnecessary points.

Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize the key points that you wish the audience to remember or reflect on. You should not introduce new topics on this final section, unless you are giving a ‘story type’ speech which contains a surprising twist.

Actions when planning a new speech or presentation

Key points: Write down the key points that will adequately cover the contents of your speech. You will later memorize these using the Journey method.

Time and record the speech: If you have enough time, I would highly recommend that you time your speech and record yourself out loud using your phone or other recording device. Listening to your speech will help you to analyse your delivery and make it better.

Review: Ask yourself the following questions after you have structured your speech or presentation:
Is the speech too long or too short? Am I speaking too fast or too slow? Is there too much information in the speech, is the speech concise enough? Have I added enough key points to adequately cover the contents of the speech?
The above questions may prompt you to alter your speech and change around the key points. If so, then make the necessary changes and do the exercise again.

2) Memorize the key points using the Journey method

journey-walkingNow memorize the key points of your speech using the Journey method as described in the previous section.

Quickly create your journey with enough stages to cover the number of your key points

Associate each of the key points of your speech to the stages of your journey. Think in pictures, while closing your eyes and imaging each of the actions as vividly as possible.

Make sure that your mental image is memorable, use animated characters, exaggerated actions, real people, stereotypes, and anything that will help you memorize.

Remember to use substitution if you are having trouble trying to picture something.

When you are finished, now walk through the journey and review each of the key points again from memory, trying to say each of the words out loud.

Finally, rehearse the speech out loud using the points that you memorized using this method.

I would recommend that you use a video recorder to practice your speech delivery so that you can analyse your body language and actions.

After doing the above, you should be ready to deliver a killer speech!

Section 4 – Speech day, managing anxiety, and honing your skills

speech-day

Now let’s talk about your transition to speaking without notes, steps to manage any fear and anxiety, and tips to help you improve your skill and delivery.

1) Transition to speaking without notes

If you do not feel confident enough to speak completely without notes just yet, you could start with either of the following:

A) Initially having a backup set of notes in your pocket and only taking them out if you need to. This can help you remove the fear of ‘blanking’.

Once you are more confident in your abilities you will be able to speak without these fall-back notes.

B) Use notes for only a portion of your speech: You could initially use notes for just the beginning and end of your speech, or for sections that requires a lot of facts or figures.

2) Conquering anxiety

Fear and anxiety is a major factor that holds people back from speaking without notes. Even some of the most experienced public speakers still get extremely nervous before delivering a speech.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with anxiety, try triangular breathing to regulate your stress levels and concentrate your mind. Focus your mind on breathing for a few seconds, holding for a few seconds, and then exhaling for a few seconds.

This simple trick can make the world of a difference. This increase in concentration will also help you focus on recalling your mental journey.

Fear and anxiety affects everyone. It can even cause difficult physical symptoms. Managing it is a slow process, but you can get over it eventually!

Just try to accept it rather than fight, and ask yourself “What’s the worst that will happen?”. Even the worst possible scenario will be much less severe then you might be thinking.

3) Pause

When getting up to speak, don’t be afraid to pause for a moment and gather your thoughts before beginning.

This can put both yourself and the audience at ease. If available, you could take a sip of water and then take a deep breath before beginning to speak.

Try to include pauses in your speech in between key points. This gives the audience time to absorb your message before you move onto the next point.

4) Rehearse and record yourself

In the build-up to your speech. Practice as much as possible, and record yourself on a phone or Dictaphone.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What section am I most likely to stumble on?
  • Can I be more concise?
  • Am I using crutch words to fills gaps or hesitations?
  • Are the key points that I have memorized adequate enough for me to deliver my full speech?

5) Find opportunities to practise speaking

Public speaking is a learned skill.

Many experienced speakers may appear as ‘naturals’, but their skills are often actually the product of many years of practice and improvement.

I recommend seeking out a public speaking club if you are not a member one. I can highly recommend Toastmasters International, which have over 15000 clubs worldwide. Toastmasters clubs usually have a mix of beginners and experienced members.

It is a great way to practice the skill under less pressure. You also get the benefit of meeting new people, improve your scripted and impromptu speaking, and learning and receiving feedback from others.

Next Steps…

Keep Improving

Now you should have all the tools you need to smash your next speech or presentation.

If you need to remember a few points at the last minute you can easily use the link or chain method.

I would highly recommended that you put some practice into training your visual memory. Try to memorize random lists of items, shopping lists, phone numbers, or anything else that you can think of!

Memorizing in this way can become a natural habit. You will be astounded at how quickly this can happen!

Let Your Powerful Memory Fuel Your Confidence in Public Speaking

I hope that you are beginning to realize the potential of your memory. Tapping this potential will allow you to deliver speeches and presentations with a new level of confidence and charisma.

Keep practicing the techniques and keep practicing public speaking. Both of these skills can have an amazing effect on you professional and personal life.

 

Say Hello And Ask a Question in my Q&A Section!

If you have any comments or questions then please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. Also feel free to ask a question on the Q&A section of this site!

 

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