How to Memorize a Speech Effectively

To deliver an effective talk, speech or presentation by far the best way is to memorize the content and not read from a written script. This is because reading a script makes it impossible for the speaker to connect to the audience with eye contact, making the delivery flat and ineffective. It also makes the speaker superfluous, because if someone is just reading a script they may as well just give the script to the audience and let them read it in their own time.

But how exactly do you memorize a script? There are many different methods but this is the approach I use and the one that I use to teach other people in workshops and coaching.

Most important of all you should not try to memorize and entire script and deliver it exactly a written. Unless you are a talented actor reading a script written by a talented writer it will always sound stiff and heartless. People can recognize very easily when you are effectively playing back a recorded announcement because the rhythm is usually wrong and the emphasis is rarely where it should be. A recital like this will have less impact and instead of inspiring people you might bore them. Memorizing the exact wording also has the disadvantage that if you have a temporary blackout it is hard to recover.

What works most effectively is to write a complete script and read it out loud a few times, correcting anything that doesn't sound natural.  Once this script is ready read it through a few more times to learn the ideas and some phrases then reduce the script to a list of key words and phrases. Group these phrases into sections and then highlight the first key phrase of each section. All of these key phrases should fit onto a single page of paper.
Start to learn the content by speaking out loud with the help of the key phrase list. Each key phrase should be enough to remind you of the point you planned to make but each time it will come with different words, but always from the heart. Because it comes from conscious thought it will have all the right emphasis and intonation, making it sound stronger and more persuasive.
Gradually transition from using the key phrase list all the time to looking when you forget what is next and finally try to deliver the entire speech without looking once at the notes.  Make a special effort to memorize the sequence of the sections because this is what will help you to recover if you are distracted for a moment. The order will quickly become familiar, just like the order of songs in an album are easy to remember unless you always listen in shuffle mode.
If you have trouble remembering the order of the ideas you should revise the structure of the speech and cut the less essential parts. A well structured speech is easier to remember, to deliver and to understand. 
When you are able to deliver the speech without looking at your notes you are ready to go. Always keep a copy of your key phrase list in your pocket just in case of blackouts.  Some people also leave a copy on the table next to the laptop, so that when they need to check what is next they can "forget" they have a clicker and use the down button on the laptop instead, sneaking a peek at the list.

During the performance you can also put the key phrases in the speaker notes and display those on a monitor at the edge of the stage, but only look at that when you need it. Memorizing always makes the speech more persuasive and prompts should be only for when you get stuck.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For workshops and one-to-one coaching about speaking and influencing you can contact Andrew Hennigan by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or by email at


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