Have you ever nearly tugged out your hair with anxiety when asked to give a memorized speech? Don't feel bad if you have. Giving a speech can be nerve-wracking.
For some people, the prospect of public speaking makes them freeze up so badly that memorizing a speech becomes impossible. But there's a solution for everyone. No matter your level of experience with giving memorized speeches in public, the first step is to relax.
Relaxation when writing and learning a speech by memory has several benefits:
- It opens up the critical thinking abilities of your mind.
- It stimulates the imagination.
- It conditions you to be relaxed during recall.
- It helps you set your audience at ease because you look and feel more confident.
- It helps you get back on track even if you lose your place.
For example, you might sometimes generate laughter where you weren't expecting it. That happened during this TEDx Talk called "Two Easily Remembered Questions That Silence Negative Thoughts." Thanks to relaxation, it was easy to get back on track when the unexpected happened.
In order to relax, try a simple, five-minute meditation. You can also do some progressive muscle relaxation with breathing exercises. A third technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which simply involves tensing and releasing all of your major muscles from head to toe. For best results, combine all three approaches.
I recommended that you condition yourself to be relaxed at each and every stage of the speech preparation and delivery process. For example, establish a state of relaxation before you start writing your speech, relax before your practice, and repeat the process before giving the speech itself.
In order to prime your memory from the beginning of the composition phase, draft an outline first. Next, draft the speech on paper using a pen or pencil.
Why write your speech by hand?
In 59 Seconds, for example, Richard Wiseman provides compelling scientific research that demonstrates that writing by hand uses more of your mind. You'll be tapping into the fertile ground of your memory long before it's time to memorize.
Now it's time to type up your draft. This form of repetition not only starts developing your memory of the speech. It also helps you order your ideas in a logical progression. Sequencing your ideas so that they connect and flow is key to recalling your speech with ease.
Next, give the speech out loud and record it. By reading the speech aloud, you'll be activating the muscles of your mouth, adding another layer of expression to the muscular activities of writing by hand and typing.
Then listen back to your speech and read along with the text. As another form of repetition, you're now adding your ears to the work you've done with the muscles of your hands, arms, eyes, and mouth. These deep levels of repetition, along with the logical order of the information, will expand your familiarity yet further.
Finally, divide the speech into segments and use your body and environment. One of the best ways to use your surroundings is to create a Memory Palace. Learning how to memorize a speech with this strategy has been around since at least Ancient Greece. In fact, the English phrase "in the first place" comes from this technique and refers to using locations to help us remember the points we want to make.
Memory Palace creation 101
In case you've never used a Memory Palace, here's a quick primer:
A Memory Palace is an imaginary version of a real building you know well. Your home, place of work or even an art gallery or movie theater can serve as the basis for a secure Memory Palace.
Next, follow these steps, noting that even if this process sounds elaborate, it should only take two to five minutes:
1. Draw a floor plan of the location.
2. Number each room.
3. Make a list of each room beside the drawing (office kitchen, your office, secretary's office, boss's office, etc.):
4. Make a mental journey throughout the building.
Make the journey linear, logical and avoid crossing your path. Following these guidelines will reduce confusion and cognitive overload so you can focus on memorizing your speech.
5. Assign each segment of your speech to a room.
Now that you've got your Memory Palace prepared:
6. In your imagination, associate imagery with the ideas in your speech.
For example, when memorizing a point about global warming and its effects on your business, you could see a magnifying glass focusing rays of light from the sun onto a miniature version of your office. See it exploding in flames on the counter of your office kitchen.
If the next point is about your company's plan to include solar energy into its future planning on a budget of $3 million, see Donald Trump (a millionaire) writing the number "3" on a huge check in the shape of a solar panel. You can even give him a mustache to help you remember the "3," since a mustache is shaped like the number (tipped on its side).
Make sure that you make this imagery big, bright and colorful. If you can add vibrant action, all the better. For example, Donald Trump could be writing the check the way Zorro slashes his sword.
If you're including much more particular facts, learn how to memorize a textbook to supplement this technique.
7. If you can, physically move around the building you're using as your Memory Palace as you memorize each segment of the speech.
This will involve the biggest muscles of your body, expanding the sensory experience for the benefit of your memory.
Again, the modern tradition of saying "in the first place" and "secondly," "thirdly," etc. comes from how the ancient Roman orators used Memory Palaces for their speeches. ]
These speakers were literally imagining the places and imagery they used to memorize their speeches in the logical order of their points in combination with the linear order of the Memory Palace. The trick is in making sure that your associations are concrete, specific and exaggerated.
8. Practice delivering your speech by mentally wandering through the mental Memory Palace and "decoding" the imagery.
Do this three to five times.
You can also walk through the location while practicing recall. For bonus points, write out your speech from memory for extra practice.
Again, do all of these activities in a state of relaxation. It will make a huge difference and give you a stress-free advantage when giving your speech. No one else will be as calm and gathered as you.
Now it's time to let your mind rest. Memories consolidate during sleep, so get to bed early.
Get up early too. Eat a protein-based breakfast, and go through the speech a few more times using your Memory Palace.
Then, deliver your speech with confidence and reward yourself for your accomplishment.
Take it to the next level with long-term memory practice
To get excellent at delivering speeches from memory, give more of them. You can join Toastmasters to practice or speak at community events. TedTalks are a fantastic resource for watching speakers, and there are even several talks about using Memory Palaces. You can check this one by Joshua Foer for inspiration.
Now it's your turn
Write out a speech and memorize it using the approach you've just learned. Although it might sound like a fair amount of effort, just follow the steps, and you'll be amazed by how effectively you can memorize a multipage speech in the space of an afternoon. Even if you don't have the luxury of sleep and morning practice, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how you can memorize and recall an entire speech in record time.