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Public Speaking
How to Memorize a Speech
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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You have years of experience under your belt, which is why you've been asking to speak at a meeting, convention, conference or talk. You've taken the time to research the topic, gather some noteworthy statistics, decide on some talking points and come up with some personal anecdotes that relate. All in all, you have a general idea of what you want to say — though doing your homework has been quite tasking. But you're also well aware that the hardest bit has yet to come: remembering your speech so you can actually deliver it naturally.

Despite how prepared you come to give a speech, if your presentation skills are lacking, your whole talk can fall flat. One surefire way to present skillfully is by speaking from memory, of course. While having notes is allowed, being able to speak with conviction and making eye contact with your audience instead of a deck of notecards is much preferred.

So you're probably wondering how to memorize a speech quickly.

Ron White, a two-time national memory champion, said in a video that knowing your speech by heart helps "your confidence will skyrocket."

"This also allows you to maintain eye contact, being a more dynamic and powerful speaker," he explains in the video. "You will appear more knowledgeable to your audience as well."

Here's how to do just that with five techniques for memorizing your speech.

5 Techniques for Memorizing a Speech

Here's how to remember your speech quickly.

1. Record Yourself Practicing a Lot (but Take Breaks)

How do you not forget your speech? One of the best ways to remember your speech is by recording yourself practicing a lot — in fact, you can even practice by rehearsing in front of different audiences.

After all, rehearsing out loud can improve your memory, according to research. First and foremost, if you read quietly, you'll only store the words in your memory as necessary; but, if you read out loud, your brain reproduces the speech so the memories of those words will stick at the forefront of your mind better. Researchers call this phenomenon of getting to hear the words again as you speak them "the production effect."

Moreover, reciting your speech before someone else can also help you build confidence. And, according to a 2003 study, there's a strong connection between high self-esteem and good memory.

So recite your speech in front of a friend or a family member who can also record it for you.

And do it often — but take some breaks in between. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the forgetting curve and spacing effect, which suggests that, the more you learn, take a break, learn again, take a break again and learna again, the better you'll understand your materials. The forgetting curve shows that you will forget what you have learned as time passes, but to keep the learned material, the spacing effect (taking a break of preferably one day) will help you learn. You can increase your break by a day each time, and it'll help you to relearn your materials until you have it all down.

2. Make a Mental Outline of Topics in Your Speech

How do you memorize a speech without notes? You make mental notes instead. You can do this by making a visual outline of your topics in your head. This way, when you go to speak, you won't sound like a robot reading off of a script. Rather, you'll sound like an engaging storyteller.

Writing a speech out word for word, or trying to memorize a speech word for word with written notes will make you sound "corny or canned," according to White in his video.

"You want a speech that sounds natural and flows," he argues, adding that leaving room for spontaneous additions can work well. "I typically just write out short phrases or a single word to remind me of what I want to talk about."

Writing out big ideas such as "working smarter not harder" or "time management" can work well. You can list these ideas as bullet points in the general chronological order you plan to follow.

3. Remember That You're the Expert (Keep Confident)

Wondering, how can I memorize a presentation quickly? Firstly, remember and believe the fact that you are an expert.

Fear can be paralyzing, and a fear of public speaking isn't uncommon. But it's important to remember that you've been asked to speak because you're an authority in your field. If you don't remember this, and you get nervous, you might go into "fight or flight" mode, which will make it nearly impossible to remember the details of your speech. Stress affects learning and memory, which will hinder your ability to recall your speech.

Plus, as you now know, having confidence is linked with better memorization skills. So it's important to keep your self-esteem high.

You can do this by practicing mindfulness meditation. Meditate on the fact that you are an expert and that you can do this — you've been chosen for a reason. You can also practice breathing techniques to calm yourself down and relieve stress

4. Sleep on It

You need sleep. Sleep improves both short- and long-term memory. So pulling an all-nighter trying to memorize your speech isn't going to help you; it'll have adverse effects and actually hurt you even more.

Get a good night's sleep before your speech so your memory will function well the next day. Sleep will also help you combat stress, which you already know can hurt your memory, as well.

5. Build Your Memory Palace

Store your speech in your memory palace. Here's how to use a memory palace to memorize a speech — this ancient technique (of at least 2,500 years) helps you store information in your brain to help you organize ideas in imaginary rooms. Basically, build a structure in your mind, as "it's where you visualize what you want to recall on furniture in your home," White explains in his video.

Assign ideas to the imaginary furniture in the imaginary rooms. You'll want to store points in the different furniture so, when it comes time to give your speech, you can simply go into the house and walk around to where you stored everything you planned to discuss. Just make sure that you put these ideas in prominent places that you won't miss — places with which you interact every day, like your computer desk or your armoire.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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