The Presenter Super Memory System – The Details

by drjim on April 7, 2009

The Super Memory System For Presenters

The Super Memory System For Presenters

I recently had an opportunity to deliver a 45-minute keynote as part of a training session kick-off for a group of IT Mangers. I decided that in order to boost my creditability with this hard-nosed group, I needed to stay in eye contact with them and not be looking at my notes. This meant memorization.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I broke the speech up into sections – my speech resulted in 9 sections.
  • I then broke each section up into “ideas” – basically sentences.
  • I then picked a place that I had lived in the past (a school or any place that you know well would have done fine also). The only requirement was that it had to have multiple, distinct “locations” – in this case rooms.
  • Then I pictured myself in a room such as the kitchen. I could see myself sitting a the table in a particular chair.
  • Next I came up with a picture AND an action for the first idea / sentence that I wanted to memorize.

Here’s how I had written my speech to start out:

“I’d like to start out our time together today by asking you a simple question: where do you want you want to be at in your career 5 years from now? That will be 2014 – it’s just 1,825 days from right now. I have no idea what you will be doing in 5 years, but there is one thing that I know with 100% certainty – the job that you are doing right now will no longer exist.”

  • I basically had three image / actions to create. Remember, these are highly personal – what you come up with just has to work for you.
  • My first image was of 5 calendars: one each being stuck to each of  the fingers on my right hand. I was shaking that hand very hard and they all flew off.
  • My second image was of a stack of those one-a-day calendar tear-off sheets in a really, really tall pile sitting before me. Just to make it more vivid I pictured it as being sheets from the Dilbert: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar. I then pictured a card in front of this stack that said “1,825 days” and the stack falling over and making a real mess on the floor.
  • Finally, on the table in front  of me behind the stack of calendar sheets was a very small model of a worker in a cubicle typing away on a computer. All of a sudden a trap door built into the table swung open and the little cubicle vanished.

There you have it. When I went to give my speech, I didn’t even try to recall the words that I had written down. Instead, I had three pictures flash in my head – calendars stuck to my fingers, a stack of calendar pages, and a disappearing cubicle. Without looking at any notes, I was able to quickly and easily recall what I wanted to say without having to look at any notes!

Have you ever had to give a speech without using notes. How long was the speech? How did you memorize what you had to say? How did it go? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Art Johnson April 7, 2009 at 5:23 pm

It’s a great system, and it continues to amaze me how effective it is. My speeches tend to be filled with anecdotes, stories, and quotes. I use the room scenes for each snippet and to transition from one section to the next. I don’t memorize the speech (except for the quotes), but I do need some method to stay on track and not miss any imortant content. This technique works quite nicely. As a caution, this does not take the place of preparation and practice, but it does make it easy to deliver a speech without notes.

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E.G. Sebastian April 8, 2009 at 7:55 am

I was always terrified of having to memorize a presentation… In fact, I started my speaking career at 36 exactly for that reason (at least one of the main reasons): I felt I could never memorize a 30 presentation – let alone a longer one…

Once I got started I kept is simple: I use powerPoint, but I use it only to have the main points up on the screan, charts, graphs, etc. While the audience might think that the PowerPoint is for them, the truth was that it was mainly for me (no wonder many call it a “crutch”).

These days I rarely use PowerPoint, but I do use handouts and I keep one of the handouts close to me so I can “cheet”.

The longest presentation that I provided without notes was 15 minutes; but by today I know I could deliver a 2 to 3 hour presentation with no notes. Experience makes you more confident and helps you belive more in your own abilities.

I like your memorization methods. I heard something similar in the past, but never tried them. I have another 15 minute presentation comming up in two weeks, I’ll try your suggestions.

Great post!

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Dr. Jim Anderson April 10, 2009 at 7:29 pm

E.G.: Just as Art pointed out, this system is no substitute for practice, practice, practice! However, it can help with what I like to call the “flow” of your speech – it will help you to remember what comes next. Good luck with your next speech!

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