How to Memorize a Talk

 In Story

When I memorize a piece of music or a talk, it doesn’t take long before I see the pages in my head. I flip through them mentally as I go along. I know this happens after repeated exposure to a written document. In fact, I seem to remember all of my notes and scribbling, too. I understand this as pattern memorization of a sort, which is why I was so excited to discover a pattern memorization tool that others can use.

Man with his fingers to his temples, with a thinking expression

About ten years ago, I came upon the “memory palace.” This is an ancient technique for memorization used by orators in ancient Greece, and rediscovered by Mateo Ricci in the late 17th century. Ricci used the technique to make Catholicism memorable to the Chinese. While you could argue that it didn’t work out so well for Ricci, still it’s a great tool and one that I find very helpful. The basic approach is to create a mental picture of a familiar setting. You “place” reminders of what you are trying to remember throughout the mental picture. To recall your piece, you simply “walk” through your setting and what you need to remember is all there.

It’s a great technique, and its usefulness is probably related to why it seems to be easier to remember what you have to say if you create movements to go along with a talk, or blocking as in a dramatic piece. If you have trouble memorizing your talks, create moves for specific words or ideas so that your brain will have more than one sense involved in memorization.

Recently, I found a wonderful description of the Memory Palace technique and instructions for its use on the blog, Litemind, written by Luciano Passuello.  This blog, by the way, is one of my new favs and I highly recommend it. I used the technique and memorized the grocery list of 9 items that he gives as a practice piece in one attempt.  Check it out.

Here are two other articles for learning memorization techniques:

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