How to memorize a speech

If you’ve ever had to give a speech then you might be familiar with the fear of forgetting what you wanted to say.  Fortunately there is an easy technique that you can use that makes it easy to remember any speech that you want to give (and can be used in lots of other ways as well!)  Known as the ‘method of loci’ it was first used amongst the great speakers of ancient Greece and the senators of the Roman Empire.

I’m going to use this method to teach you how you can easily memorize a speech.

The method of loci

These days the method of loci is also known as the ‘memory palace’ technique and uses visualization to help you memorize quickly.

It works as follows:

  1. Choose a route – you should choose a route that you know well, for example, this can be a tour of your house or your route to school or work.  You can also create an imaginary route if you want but this should really only be done once you a familiar with using the method of loci.
  2. Divide whatever you want to remember into a list of distinct items – if you are memorizing a speech then each point that you want to make will be a separate item.
  3. Choose a series of waypoints along the route – you then choose a number of locations along your route, there should be at least one location for each point that you want to remember.  The locations will be used as markers for whatever you want to remember.
  4. Link the items and waypoints – this is the most important step to help you remember easily.  Visualize travelling along your route and when you reach each waypoint, you need to link the next item to it.  Since this part is so important, see the next point for how to do it!
  5. To create the link you need to create a scene of the item that you want to remember occurring at the waypoint.  This image should be vivid and easy to remember.  You can do the following to make it easy to remember:
    1. Use all of your senses – create a bright image, use sounds, smells etc…
    2. Use humour – make the scene fun for you to remember!
    3. Use symbols – the mind can easily memorize symbols, so use them to help you memorize quickly.
    4. Use motion – a film is easier to remember that a photograph, so take advantage of this and make the scene move, like a movie scene
    5. Turn your journey into a story – each scene will be easier to remember if they are connected.  I suggested in the previous point that you turn each scene into a movie scene, well turn the entire journey into a movie!
    6. Be creative and have fun – the more creative your scenes are, then the easier they will be to remember.
  6. Repeat the previous two steps until you have linked all of the items that you want to memorize with their waypoints.
  7. Run through the entire journey a few times until you are happy with it.
  8. Well done!  You have just memorized your speech!  Just keep running through your journey every now and again until you have successfully given your speech.

If you want more information about specifically using the method of loci and creating a memory palace – not just how to use it to memorize a speech, then my article about how to use the memory palace technique goes into it in more detail.

An example to memorize a speech

In this example I am going to prepare a memory palace to give a speech about the method of loci – basically I’m going to memorize a speech about how to memorize speeches!  The route I am going to use will be a walk around my house as I get up from sleep.

  1. I wake up and can see my bedroom but there is a huge question mark floating above me, blaring the words, ‘where are saying? where are saying?’  It seems that I have forgotten what I wanted to say!
  2. I get up and walk to the bathroom (or more accurately, since I’ve just woken up, I stagger there).  I turn on the tap for a shower, but it’s freezing, then it’s too hot, then freezing again!  I look up to see the Norse god Loki looking at me – he’s been playing with the temperature.  At least I now remember that the speech is about how to use the method of loci to memorize a speech.
  3. Once I’ve washed I walk back into the bedroom but now, on my bed, I see a Greek and a Roman giving speeches to each other.  Neither is listening to the other and it looks like they could both carry on all day.  This is what the method of loci was first used for.
  4. I next walk onto the landing but stop, amazed.  The light-shade on the landing looks like a fairytale castle – a beautiful palace.  Then Loki appears again, knock the memory palace light-shade off, it falls and shatters into thousands of pieces.  The method of loci is also known as a memory palace.
  5. When I get downstairs I see that the Greek and Roman have both got there before me.  They have a blueprint of my house and seem to be arguing about the best route to take to walk around it.  This reminds me that the first step in using the method of loci is to plan my route.
  6. As I walk into my kitchen I see Loki again.  He’s sitting on one of the worktops and I watch in horror as he picks up my speech and a pair of scissors and starts cutting!  At least I now know that the next step is to break my speech into the different points that I want to make.
  7. Loki has now finished butchering my speech and with a clap of his hands all of the cupboards and drawers open with a loud crack, I see each cupboard and drawer contains a room in my house and I watch helplessly, as all of the cut-up pieces of my speech fly into the rooms in the cupboards and drawers, before they all slam close.  Now I remember that all of the points of my speech have to be assigned to a different location along my route.
  8. I pick up my breakfast and head towards the dining room but as I’m about to walk in, I stop, stunned!  My dining room is mad – a blaze of lights, sounds and smells – all of my senses find it overwhelming.  Fortunately it dies down a bit as I sit down to eat.
  9. As I sit down to eat, a clown comes into the room and starts juggling with my breakfast, unfortunately, he’s not very good and he soon ends up with a bowl of cereal on his head – this is supposed to remind me that humor is very important as a memorization aid!
  10. Next I pick up my breakfast and head back to the kitchen to wash up.  I do my washing up and pull the plug to empty the sink.  As the water begins to swirl down the plughole it turns into all kinds of symbols, spinning around the sink before they finally disappear down the drain.
  11. I then head into the living room, as I look around there are several framed pictures but they’re all blank – I can’t remember what is supposed to be in them, whereas the TV is on and showing a movie.  This reminds me that it is a lot easier to remember moving scenes than still pictures.
  12. I sit down and watch the entire film, I realise that it is telling the story of my day!  I see myself wake up to see the question mark and so on…  I remember that it helps to link all of the memory waypoints into a single story.
  13. I stand up and walk back to the hall where I see the Greek and Roman again.  This time they have both set up easels and are busy making a terrible mess painting – they are both trying to show off their creativity, at least they seem to be having a great time.
  14. In finally manage to walk out of my front door.  Just as I’m about to lock it, I stand up and walk out of my front door – it’s like Groundhog Day!  This keeps repeating time after time to remind me to repeat the process for every item I am trying to remember.
  15. I finally lock the door and walk towards my car.  As I’m about to open it, I wake up and see a giant question mark again – everything’s repeating again!  I now hear the music from a Benny Hill chase sketch and see myself running through the house several times.  It’s another repeating reminder – this time telling me to run through the entire memory palace in my head several times so that I lock it into memory.
  16. I finally manage to get into the car and as I drive away into the sunset (getting out the house too a while!) I hear celebration music and ahead of me I can see fireworks.  Finally, I’ve memorized the entire speech!

I hope that this has been helpful and shown you how you can easily remember a speech – also, if you use the example above, you should be able to memorize how to use the method of loci to build your own memory palace!

If you want to take your memorization skills to the next level then I can really recommend the Power Memory Formula, which is a fantastic course that will take to from the basics and help you to develop a virtually photographic memory.  It’ll make memorizing a speech seem like child’s play!  You can follow this link to read my review of the Power Memory Formula.