how to memorise a speech


When it comes to mastering the art of public speaking many people ask me for help with how to memorise a speech.  Some people say why bother, why not read from a script but the reality is that reading scripts tends to result in a flat and lifeless monologue that is likely to put your audience to sleep.  In this post, I will share six secrets on how to “groove in” your speech content so that you can deliver it confidently without having to resort to reading from a script.

TIP 1: Start by writing out your script in full.
There is no point trying to memorize something that is unclear,  ill-formed or wordy. I write a first draft on my PC, and then I print it out at 18 point, so it is easily readable.   I then read it out loud, listening to see how it sounds and how easy and natural it is to speak.  I am looking to eliminate overly formal sentences, difficult to pronounce words or phrases that are hard to say. I recommend you repeat this process at least three times until you get a script that you are happy with.

TIP 2: Be realistic – Don’t try to memorize your speech word for word.
Striving to be “word-perfect” will increase the likelihood that you will dry up or lose your thread. What you want to do is memorize the structure of your speech as a series of “stepping-stones” that you can walk through as you deliver the words around them.

TIP 3: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
The more you rehearse your speech, the more fluent you will get and the easier it will be to remember what you want to say next. I start by reading from the script and then I put the script down and try to do it from memory. When I stumble or forget my words, I pick up my script and read the next bit silently, before putting it down and practicing again. Repetition is the mother of learning and each time I do this; I build more content into my memory.

TIP 4: Create a visual  “storyboard” for your speech
Some people prefer to sketch out a set of images that will help guide them through their speech. You can draw out a series of  “simple sketches, for each of the main ideas in your speech. Or, if you find drawing difficult, search for and then download appropriate images from the internet.  A picture is worth a thousand words and a well-chosen image will trigger your memory and keep you on track.

TIP 4: Create a speech summary in mind map format
I love mind mapping and have found it an incredibly useful tool for preparing and delivering speeches. Mind maps rely on carefully chosen keywords or images to trigger our memory. The basic structure of a speech mind map has a sheet of paper in landscape orientation with the speech topic in the center and branches radiating out from it. Each main branch is a key idea or theme of the speech, and the sub-branches that radiate from them each give more detail. Mind maps can look messy to the uninitiated, but they are very structured and are usually read in a clockwise manner starting at the 1 pm position,

TIP 5: Summarize your speech on index cards
If you can’t get along with a mind map, you can always try jotting a few bullet points down on some small 6″x4″ index cards. Remember you are not writing out your speech word for word, just capturing the key ideas to serve as prompts to keep you on track. Write nice and big on the cards so that they are easy to read at a glance.

Don’t speak while reading. Look down at the card then look up, reconnect with your audience and then start speaking. I recommend that you punch a hole in the top left-hand corner of the cards and fasten them together with a treasury tag so that they won’t  get mixed up, if you drop them.

Tip 6: Use a memory hook system
Some speakers use a familiar journey as a way of memorizing the main points of their speech. The well-known landmarks, they see as they retrace that journey in their mind’s eye can be linked to mental images that relate to the various points or messages in their speech.

In conclusion
As you can see, there are many ways to memorize a speech, and you’ll need to experiment with them all to find out which one works best for you. These techniques will help you to memorize a speech if you practice them.

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1 Comment

  1. Fred E. Miller on 25/05/2012 at 13:55

    Good suggestions, Gavin.
    Mind Mapping is a tremendous way to develop, practice and deliver a presentation.
    Using images in that map makes it easier because we think in terms of images. (If I say Apple, do you see the letters a-p-p-l-e or do you see something round, red, and with a stem?)
    Using images in your slides is the best way to deliver presentations because they help the audience GET IT!  Printing those images in Slide Sorter in PPT, or LIght Table in Keynote gives those image like a Mind Map.  That can be your notes!

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