Mesmerizing memory: how to remember a speech without notes

We’ve all been in situations where cue cards are not acceptable… or perhaps you’ve forgotten them in your briefcase. Before you let your stomach sink to the bottom of your feet, understand that there ARE ways to remember a speech without written aids. As a matter of fact, your speeches can sound much more conversational and engage the audience even more if you rely on your own memory. 

“The worst thing you can do to remember a speech is to sit down and try to memorise a pile of cue cards” – World memory record holder David Thomas.

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David Thomas, the aforementioned memory whiz (and fan of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking), tells us how to create a journey to remember a speech:

  1. Start out with a familiar setting, let’s say it’s your home. What you’re going to do is place a different trigger at certain points in your house to help trigger your memory of key words. 
  2. Begin with your front door. Use that as your starting point. If the first part of your speech is about sales, imagine a huge white sail flapping against your front door. 
  3. Let’s say the second part of your speech is about performance, so when you step into your front door imagine a Ferrari revving it’s engine right there greeting you. 
  4. Go through all the familiar rooms in your house, each time adding something outrageous and/or silly to trigger your emotional memory. The more emotional response you have to the word you’re trying to remember the better. 

When you use the “journey method” of memory, you can quickly memorise up to twenty key words and easily be able to give a speech without notes. If you do happen to forget where you go next, take a trip inside your house and grab the next outrageous image. 

Another vital way to boost your memory and give a speech without notes is to think of the journey you’re taking your audience on as a string with different beads on it. The string is the thread that runs through your entire talk – and the beads are the key moments you want to remember.

The goal here is to own the logic behind the presentation and the transitions from one section to the next, but not to concern yourself with memorising exact words. This usually ends up sounding (and feeling) much more conversational and engaging for an audience.

Use the bead & thread method by having a look at the speech you want to memorise. Look for the main ideas (or beads) that move the speech forward. Think of it as horizontal logic. Fleshing out each beat is your vertical logic. If your speech makes logical sense, the transitions will come naturally to you, even under pressure. Study that logic until you can recite the logic in your sleep. 

Once you know the POINT of your speech, inside and out, the exact words don’t matter as much.

For more on public speaking memory, watch our free webinar How To Never Need Notes Again with memory champ Mark Channon. Mark is a Memory Grand Master and author of “How to Remember Anything“.  In this highly entertaining and interactive webinar, you’ll learn the basics of some memory techniques that will revolutionize your relationship to remembering what you want to say on stage – it’s a must-watch!

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Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a popular speaker on confidence and inspiration, an award winning social entrepreneur, founder of Ginger Training & Coaching and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).