There are critical achievements that all professional speakers share. You want to be recognized as a subject matter expert in your field. Someone who is a polished speaker, who creates a “conversation experience” and connects with every person in every audience. You want to be the best, and you can achieve those goals. But you need a strategy. One of the strongest strategy techniques for creating conversation experiences with audiences is a form of memorization.
I don’t mean memorizing your entire presentation, repeating it verbatim or reading from a slide presentation. This strategy does involve some actual memorization but also visualization and memory triggers. Fair warning: This technique takes practice.
To begin to learn this technique, write the opening and closing paragraphs for your presentation. They must be meaningful for your audience. You want to grab their attention in the beginning and offer a call-to-action when you close. Then memorize those two paragraphs word-for-word. Practice them until you are able to deliver them perfectly. Knowing your opening paragraph by heart can help calm your nerves which helps increase your level of confidence. Memorizing your closing paragraph will help you “stick the landing” and end your presentation on a high note. Your call-to-action is the key message point, the seed, you have been planting throughout your presentation. You want the audience to remember it, and act on it.
Now it’s time to learn and incorporate advanced memory techniques. The method that many speakers use is called the memory palace, and includes the use of mnemonics. We all have used mnemonics to learn new and sometimes complex things. Who doesn’t remember learning the alphabet by singing the ABCs? That’s mnemonics, and it is used to develop your memory palace.
The memory palace “is an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. The most common type of memory palace involves making a journey through a place you know well, like your home or office. Along that trip, there are specific locations you always visit in the same order.” These places are where you put the mnemonic images you want to remember. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Here is how you build your memory palace.
- Become an architect and decide on the blueprint for your memory palace. Personally, I find that using my home’s design is the best – I have lived in the same house for over 20 years. I am very familiar with the layout and navigating through the house is intuitive, I don’t have to think about it. Draw your blueprint on a piece of paper showing all the major rooms, entries and exits. You will add details to this blueprint as you develop your palace.
- Look at your blueprint and decide on the route you will take every time to get from the entry to the exit. Be deliberate in your path and create a logical route through your memory palace.
- Now memorize the route you will consistently take. For example, I enter my memory palace through the front door of my home, move into the hallway, then head to the family room, then to the kitchen, then to the living room and leave through the back door.
- Make a list of the key points in your presentation that you want to remember and list them in the order that you want to present them.
- Place one presentation key point in each particular location in your memory palace; actually write that point on your blueprint. Then list two words that are specific details related to your key points in each location.
- Create a mental image of each of your key points and exaggerate the picture to help in memorization. The use of humor in the exaggeration will help you remember the point you want to make a lot easier.
- Then begin to practice by visualizing your path through your memory palace and bring in mnemonics to memorize the list. Many practice runs will be needed to train your memory and capture your entire presentation.
Put these two memorization methods together and run through your presentation. Your opening paragraph is represented by the front door, and your closing paragraph is where you exit the building. When you visualize your path through the building, think about the mnemonic memory of the key points and what you want to say about them. Practice your presentation using this method until you comfortable move from the entry to the exit. Keep your blueprint handy as a reference tool so you stay on the planned route through your memory palace.
The day of your presentation, take your written memory palace with you, and put it in a place where only you can see it, maybe on a podium. Use it as a backup plan to keep you on track, just in case you forget where you are in your presentation.
You many need to invest a considerable amount of time to get comfortable with the memory palace method but there is a big payoff: You can move from a lecturer to a conversational presenter.