When I first started public speaking, I did what most new speakers do: memorize a speech verbatim. Sometimes that worked well. It was great if I could remember each word while not sounding robotic.
But slipping up was awful. It took a moment to get back on track and back into the groove of the speech. By then, I had sometimes lost my audience’s confidence. After a few similar experiences, I knew there had to be a better way to memorize a speech. The real pros never made the same mistakes as me.
How to Memorize a Speech
First, you should never memorize a speech word for word and never read a prepared speech to your audience. It sounds unnatural. It’s boring. If you lose your place, it is a disaster.
As scary as it sounds, you should remember key speaking points instead. My favorite method for recalling and keeping the order straight is to use a memory palace. (Click here to read more about memory palaces). Here’s an excellent method for creating and memorizing a speech.
Research the topic and make notes on ideas, quotes, and references you think will be helpful. Don’t worry about the order; this is a brainstorming session
After finishing the research, structure your presentation. Think about how you want it to flow. List the key ideas in order. Keeping your notes in front of you, go through the speech once, filling in the missing parts as you go. I highly recommend doing it out loud so that you can hear yourself as you do it.
Take a moment to add, remove, and reorder your key points.
Once the items are in order, place them in a memory palace. (Click here to learn more about memory palaces.) As you do this, make sure to use the principles of exaggeration, movement, substitution, and absurdity to make the ideas come alive.
Run through your speech aloud a few more times, using the memory palace to move easily from one key point to another. You’ll find it flows better than a speech memorized word for word.
You might need to practice a few times before this method of memorizing a speech feels natural; however, it will improve the quality of your presentation.
Initially, you may hesitate at specific points while searching for the right word, but even that adds to the authenticity of your address. Connecting with the audience is much easier when you know the key issues and aren’t searching for a specific word. They will appreciate how your work sounds more genuine.
When you memorize your speech, remember the key ideas and put them in a memory palace. Never do it word for word.