As part of my work, sometimes I need to memorize some speeches or some presentations and in order to do that, what I frequently use is one technique called: Memory Palace (which originally comes from an ancient method called Method of Loci).
The approach of this technique consists on basically breaking down your speech into the main concepts you want to talk about and you try to look for a visual image for each of the concepts. It is very important that you have a vivid image for every concept you want to memorize because it will be much easier to retrieve it from your memory later. Once you have all your images, you mentally place them in a place that you know perfectly that we’ll call your “memory palace”.
We’ll see it much better with one example. Let’s say that you want to talk about Lean concepts that need to be applied for software development and you’ll soon have a speech about it. You have been working with the concepts but want to make sure during the presentation that you don’t forget any of them and at the same time don’t want to read them from the slides.
For this example we’ll use the seven principles for Lean software development and for each of them I’ll give you a suggestion of what vivid image you could use so that you don’t need to think about it yourself.
Here you have the principles along with some image to remember them:
- Eliminate the waste: You can imagine a garbage truck that’s taking away the garbage
- Amplify the learning: You can imagine a student really focused in the books he’s reading and needs a magnifying glass to read some details
- Decide as late as possible: You can imagine a crossroad sign and there’s a big clock hanging on one of the direction signs
- Deliver as fast as possible: You can imagine a McDonalds waiter delivering a Big Mac as fast as possible
- Empower the team: You can imagine your team lifting weights in a gym
- Build integrity in: You can imagine fitting the last piece of a puzzle to see the final picture
- See the whole: You can imagine an astronaut seeing the earth from the space
Once you have identified one vivid image for each of the concepts you need to look for some place that’s familiar for you. Let’s say that you want to use your house or the path that you take for driving to work. This needs to be something that you know very well.
Let’s use for this example the following house blueprint:
It can be any path you like, there are no rules about it as long as you repeat always the same path. In this particular example the order in which the rooms were visited is:
- Living room
- Dining room
- Enclosed porch
- Breakfast room
So, following the example from the Lean software development principles we’ll allocate the elements that we identified before (garbage truck, student with magnifying glass, crossroad sign with clock, McDonalds waiter, team in a Gym lifting weights, puzzle and earth) in the same order than the path we specified for visiting the rooms from the house.
Remember to make the images as vivid as possible
Now, you mentally go through each room in the house and you imagine that image in the room. For example, you are trying to enter the house and realize that it’s very difficult to do so because there’s a garbage truck there IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PORCH!!, next, as you open the door you see a student there amplifying his learning by reading a book with a magnifying glass; as you get into the house there’s a big cross-road sign, and so on.
Soon, with a very little bit of practice you can very easily remember the images and even speak them aloud in exactly the same order as the rooms you’re visiting. In this particular case the order is not important, but in many cases it might be. Once you do this exercise a couple of times, you’ll see that you remember the concepts very easily.
Finally, as you give the presentation, you mentally go through every room from your house and retrieve the associated image. The impression that you’ll cause to others when saying by heart each concept without the need to look at the notes will make you seem very experienced in the topic.
Good luck! Looking forward to hearing from your experiences.