Back when I was in school, I was taking mainly technical courses and I got to be pretty good at them. The routine was pretty much the same for each class: learn the formula, work some problems to practice using the formula, take a test and show that you know how to use the formula. The same thing went for my Computer Science classes except that instead of formulas, we were dealing with computer languages. You can well imagine how surprised and unprepared I was when I had to take some business courses: there were no formulas! Instead, there was a great deal of “facts” that needed to be memorized and then dumped back out of your head while you were taking a test. My friends who were in Business School had become very good at this type of memorize / dump routine; however, I was basically clueless.
Eventually I found a way to get all of that information to stick in my brain. What was even better was that, unlike my friends, it would remain there long after the test / final exam had come and gone. I had truly found a way to memorize my material. This is exactly the skill that you need when you have an opportunity to give a speech. You need to memorize your speech in such a way that it comes back to you quickly and easily each and every time that you need to give the speech without the need for any notes. In fact, if you could find a way to get your speech to play out on that big TV in your head, then all you would have to do is watch it and tell your audience what you were seeing. Sounds like an impossible dream? It’s not and I’m going to show you how to do it.
First, let’s start with just a little bit of medical knowledge so that you understand why this technique works. Based on years of research, Doctors believe that the part of the human brain that is responsible for our memories is the part that is called the hippocampus. Here’s the important part: if this part of the brain is stimulated sufficiently, then we will remember what stimulated it. We are all very visually based beings. This means that our memories are made up of images – sorta like a big stack of photographs. If you can visualize something, then it suddenly becomes much easier to remember it. That’s why long phone numbers can be hard to memorize (no good picture) and why what a fancy new car looks like (it’s all about looks) can be easy to recall even if you’ve only see it once.
In order to memorize your speech, you need to do three things:
- Break the speech up into a sequence of steps. These steps need to be as small as you can make them and they need to be placed in a sequential order: start, middle, and ending.
- You need to associate an image AND and action with each step of your speech. The wilder and more outrageous the image/action are the easier that step is going to be to remember.
- Finally, you need to “place” all of your steps someplace where you will be able to find them. If your speech was short and only had 10 steps, then I’d suggest that you visualize yourself “placing” them on your body: toes, ankles, knees, shins, hips, butt, back, shoulders, neck, head. If you have more steps, then I’d use some place that you know very well: your home is a great place to start. Think of your bedroom and “place” each step on things that are currently in your bedroom.
Now comes the fun part. In order to memorize your speech, what you are really going to be doing is running thorough your list and recalling the images/actions that you have stored in each location. The key to success is that you’ll need to recall each step in proper sequential order and you’ll be need to be able to do it with little or no effort. How about an example to make this all seem just a little bit more real?
Let’s say that you were asked to give a presentation on your company’s new 401k program (how boring would that be?) Here are the key points that you need to cover in your speech: everyone is automatically enrolled upon joining the company, you can un-enroll, the company will match the first 5% that you contribute, if you leave the company you can take your 401k with you, and you can borrow against your 401k in special circumstances. Yawn! Now let’s do some work to memorize this speech:
- Break it into steps:
- everyone is automatically enrolled upon joining the company,
- you can un-enroll,
- the company will match the first 5% that you contribute,
- if you leave the company you can take your 401k with you,
- you can borrow against your 401k in special circumstances.
- Now create pictures / actions for each step (sorry, these pictures/actions work for me – results may vary for you):
- I see an assembly line of new employees moving along past a machine that stamps “401k” on everyone’s forehead. The stamp hits them with a big “smack” sound and leaves a big red mark.
- I see some new employees on the assembly line, after they have been stamped, reaching up and peeling off a piece of clear tape that covered their forehead and, because it got stamped and not their actual forehead, they can just throw it away and they are not labeled as “401k” like everyone else
- I see the employees on the assembly line one-by-one stopping at a table where an accountant wearing a green visor and sitting at a plain wooden table sits. Each employee starts to lay down $1 bills on the table and as he does so, the accountant lays another $1 bill down on the table right by the employee’s bill. However, once the employee lays down his 6th $1 bill, the accountant stops laying his money down. The employee scoops up all of the money and gets back on the assembly line.
- I see some employees jumping off of the assembly line holding big piles of cash and vanishing through a hole in the floor that has a big flashing “EXIT” sign beside it.
- I see an employee jumping off of the assembly line and running towards a house that is fully on fire. The employee goes over to a big water tank that is located right by the house, turns a faucet on and drags a hose over to the burning house turns it on. Money starts to stream out of the end of the hose and smothers the house and puts the fire out.
- Finally, I see myself sitting in my office and the assembly line of new employees is running by the office just out in the hall.
There you have it. Admittidly this is a fairly boring topic for most of us to talk about; however, using the memorization techniques that we’ve talked about you can see how you could “lock” this speech into your brain. When it came time to deliver the speech, all that you would have to do is sit back and play the stored images back on that big TV in your mind. What could be easier?
So tell me: have you ever used a memorization technique like this? How did it work out for you? Do you use some different way to keep your facts straight? How long can you recall things – for a day? a week? or longer? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.