Using Memory Techniques to Give Perfect Public Speaking Performances

Memory Palace or LociAnxiety about public speaking is the top reason people cite for their inability to speak publicly. This technique will help you overcome it.

You are in business to make money, and to do that you must have a very clear set of messages. Messages that you can reel out on command. Messages for each of your audiences.

It doesn’t matter whether that audience is a single person you talk to in a network meeting or 1,000 in a live seminar. You must know the message, and you must know how to deliver it step by step.

And, if you can do it without a script, it will all be so much more natural and real. These are the things that bring trust and in turn more business.

One of the regular slots I used to do was a bookkeeping workshop. I don’t suppose there are many subjects more boring to most people than bookkeeping, and yet I kept my audiences entertained for over 2 hours and at the end 70% of them always took up my call to action and bought something.

That is a pretty good conversion rate. Also, the workshops were free, so there was no expectation to buy anything.


How to use a Memory Palace or Loci To Improve Your Performance

The only way to give a great public speaking performance is to have a clear plan. A beginning, a middle and an ending in other words.

Creating the plan is also the only way you will become confident and lose the paralysing fear most of us get before we go on stage. It also helps you get deeper into what you are going to be talking about.

Step 1: the opener

Step 1 is to create an opener. I recommend starting off with a strong promise (this is part of my sales blueprint plan by the way – more of that as we go on).

Whatever your final call to action will be, the first step is to let your audience know what they will get from your talk (and remember, the audience size does not matter, if you meet one person and they ask what you do, get ready to launch into your plan starting with your promise after you find out what they do).

Step 2: the content

Create a series of steps in your talk that take your audience on a journey. You started with a promise. A promise of where or what they will get or achieve if they take in what you have to say and how that will benefit them.

Now you need to follow up with items that cover concrete results, how you came up with whatever it is you do (your story), what it is you actually do, what others have said about what you do and how it helped them (testimonials), the features and benefit (in pairs, never talk about a feature without also talking about that feature’s benefits) and the advantages (so you can set yourself apart from your perceived competitors).

Of course it all depends on what your talk is about and whether it is simply to win trust, inform or sell something that determines the content. The point is, put the content in some kind of order. And give each section a strong title.

Step 3: the closer

Everything in business should have a call to action. Whether it is simply to arrange to see the person again, or get their contact details, you should get in the habit of asking those you meet to do something.

If you make it clear that something will benefit them you should have no problem with this. It is all about delivering value at every level.

Step 4: the memory palace

Everything we discussed so far is what more or less every good speaker already does. What will set you apart is using the Loci or Memory Palace method of memorising your agenda.

By now you will have created a title for each section of your talk. In the same way you would have created a series of keyword cards to use to ‘jog’ your memory (but you are going to throw those cards away shortly!).

Think of a place (the ‘loci’) you know really well. This is a place where you know every room and what is in that room. For me, I started with my house.

Walk through that place to familiarise yourself with the journey that is the ‘memory palace’. Actually do this physically. Start at your front door and walk into every room so you can see how they connect.

Memorise this journey. This will be the simplest memory exercise to do of all, since you already know where everything is and how each room connects together.

For this memory technique to work, you need to be able to do this in your mind, no matter where you happen to be.

As you are physically walking through the building you have chosen, look in detail at the objects and fixtures in each room or hallway. Each one will become a placeholder for each step in your talk.

Step 5: visualisation for memory improvement

Psychological studies have shown that people have a preference for how they take in information. The concepts in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) are especially strong on this point. Some people ‘feel’ things, some ‘hear’ them, many ‘see’ them.

What is interesting though is that when it comes to memory, everyone remembers things better by using their visual imagination. The only exception are people who are blind from birth (who use the other senses to remember things – see do blind people dream).

Step 6: putting it all together for the perfect presentation

So we have your talk, neatly organised into sections that take your audience from the start to the end.

We have your memory palace ready to be populated with our talk.

And we know we are going to be using the visual side of our brain to put it all together.

Start with the first location in your memory palace. For shopping lists I actually start with my front gate (so I use not only my house but its immediate environs too).

Now attach the title of your opening speech to that object using a visual stimulus to make it memorable.

I am going to use a bit of my bookkeeping workshop to give you an example. My promise was that within 2 hours you would be able to save yourself a fortune by doing bookkeeping yourself.

The keywords here are ‘bookkeeping’ and ‘fortune’. So I will now transform my front gate into a giant book in my mind’s eye. The book will look like a bookkeeping ledger (something I am familiar with). And written on it will be a vast sum of money. Perhaps $16,000,000,000,000 (the US national debt in 2012).

Instead of my front gate being 4 feet tall, I see it now as tall as my house (and shaped like a book). This overemphasis of size is key to getting things to stick in your memory. And I add in the smell of an old leather book.

Now I walk past the gate and I see my front garden. It is an area of about 15′ by 12′ and mostly earth and shrubs. The next part of my talk is on ‘accounts’ (and the fact that everything in bookkeeping is an ‘account’ of something).

I could put an image of a bank on my front garden (as in bank ‘account’) or perhaps a diary (as in ‘accounting’ for something – writing it down). For me the image of the bank is a great one. Imagine waking up and seeing a bank on your front lawn! Perfect.

Now I come to my front door. The next thing I have to remember is ‘transaction’. Account balances are changed by transactions. So I replace the image of my front door with a giant sized cheque (or ‘check’ if you’re from the US). And again I make sure it contains a giant amount of money on it to make it even more memorable.

And so on and so on. As you work through your ‘palace’ you will find this easier and easier to do. And as you can see, you are going on a journey here. You have a definite starting point and ending point. You could continue your journey from any point if you got lost along the way.

This is by far the best technique I have ever learnt for memorising talks (and shopping lists!). Try it out on shopping lists to begin with and you will be really surprised by the results. I can remember a list of 20 items in around 1 minute, and that sticks with me for 24 hours or until I replace it with another list (using the same map).

Quick update: There is an excellent article describing some software you can use for memory exercises by Derek Sivers here.