How To Memorize A Speech

Do you have a big presentation coming up and you are wondering how to memorize a speech? Are you about to present to your class or work peers, and you want to own your content even more? Memorizing a speech or presentation is challenging for sure, but you can do it with a little know how.

Decide: Memorize word for word or memorize beats

This is the big choice you need to make. If you are uncomfortable with being front and center, you may feel like verbatim memorization is the best choice for you. If this is you, take a look at how to memorize lines. It gives you great tips on how to learn the content word for word.

Be careful, when you memorize a speech verbatim, you may then end up sounding unnatural when you are presenting. Great presentations and speeches have a conversational quality about them, and that can be easily lost if you don’t know how to deliver memorized lines as well as an actor can.

Memorizing beats

Memorizing beats can be a much more natural way to present. The goal here is to own the logic behind the presentation and the transitions from one section to the next, but not to concern yourself with memorizing exact words. This usually ends up sounding (and feeling) much more conversational and engaging for an audience.

Start by mapping out your speech and the argument behind it. Look for the ideas (beats) that propel you speech forward. That’s the horizontal logic. Then look for the proof points for each of those beats. That’s the vertical logic. Study that logic until you know the real meaning behind your speech and can talk it in your sleep. In doing so, you are memorizing the argument, not just the words which will make your presentation much more powerful and engaging.

Write out an introduction and conclusion and memorize them verbatim

OK – you must be like “Wait a minute, you just said memorize the beats. What gives?” Yes, memorizing the beats will make your speech much more powerful, but memorizing your introduction and conclusion word for word gives you two real advantages:

  1. When your intro is memorized exactly and practiced to the point where it is second nature, you can then use those first few minutes of a speech to calm your nerves, gauge the audience and feel the mood of the room. You can scope out friendly faces that you can play to. You can decide if certain jokes or examples may or may not play well. You can tailor the speech to your audience on the fly.
  2. When your conclusion is memorized to the same level, you don’t have to worry about how to tie everything up. Many novices get trapped in the dreaded “conclusion loop” where they say the same things over and over, not sure how to pull it all together. If you’ve got your conclusion down cold, you don’t need to worry.

Practice on your feet, preferably in the room in which you are presenting

Just like in acting, much of a presentation is about physically owning your material. Your body needs to get used to the idea of presenting and the location of the event. It needs its own form of memorization. Get into the location, or if you can’t, find a place that is similar enough that it can make do. Run through your entire speech multiple times. If you lose yourself in the beats, don’t stop. Push through and find a way to continue. Remember where you faltered, work out the beat problem and then run through it again. Soon you will master that presentation and give the speech of your lifetime.

If you need to, use cue cards for the beats

If you are getting stuck in certain places with your speech, you can rely on cue cards (index cards). But use them properly. Don’t write out every verbatim word you want to say in your speech. You will get lost in those cue cards guaranteed. Instead, write out the horizontal and vertical logic bullet points that make up your beats. This will help you keep track of your speech in a format that’s much easier to follow, even with a few butterflies.

Exam Cram

Tomorrow’s the big test and you haven’t studied?? It’s time for an exam cram.

Let’s first say that cramming is the last resort. To get the most out of your learning, the right thing to do is to study the right way. But it can’t always be the case, and sometimes an exam cram is the only choice. In those moments, work from the tips and ideas below.

Keep in mind what exam cramming is

During an exam cram, you aren’t studying to own your material for the long-run. This is about getting as much material into your short-term memory as possible in the shortest amount of time as possible. You will forget 70% or more of this information within a few weeks. So if this knowledge is for your job security or your physical safety, you need to get through this test out of the way and go back to really learning the material asap.

Knowing this, don’t get caught up in experiential learning or other things to help you remember the material over time. Stick to blasting that material into your head through repetition and the other techniques listed here.

Strategize and make a quick plan

Don’t spend hours mapping out your cramming session, but do take a step back and think about what you already know, what your teacher is like and what types of tests have been given in the past. Then look at your study material and decide what you have to hit versus what you can  push to the side. If you know certain pieces of info cold, don’t touch it again. If your teacher gives multiple choice tests, that will affect how you study (you only need to be able to recognize the right one, not remember it cold). If there’s an area where your mind is a big blank, obviously that’s where you begin.

Know yourself and how you cram best

Some people need absolute quiet and alone time. Other people cram extremely well with a study group. Know what setting you need and make it happen. Don’t be pressured to join a group if you cram best alone.

Follow the 80/20 rule

You are not going to be able to memorize everything in an exam cram, so it’s important to be ready to throw some knowledge out the door. Once you feel you know a concept 80% of the way (or that it is mostly memorized), move on. That last twenty percent will more than likely be a waste of time during a cramming session.

Study the first few pages of each chapter of a textbook and the last few

This is where the majority of the things you need to know are going to be laid out. Textbooks typically follow a logical pattern. Each chapter begins with laying out the most important principles and terms and ends with a tying together of the key concepts. That’s your 80% right there. If you memorize what’s in those pages, you’ll be in decent shape for a test.

Don’t forget your notes or get some notes from a classmate

Sometimes teachers flat-out say that quiz from the lecture material. Other times, you are just going to have to learn if that’s true from previous tests. If your teacher quizzes mostly on lecture material and not on the text book, then spend 80% of your time going through the notes, not the textbook. If you don’t have notes, then this is step 1 in your exam cram. Get some from a classmate immediately.

Repeat, repeat, repeat the key terms and ideas. And then repeat them some more.

Repetition is your best friend when cramming. You are just bombing your memory with info – getting enough of it to stick for one class session. You can spice it up, though.

  • Use flashcards or index cards
  • Write out the notes again so your brain processes the words in a different way
  • Use mnemonic devices like acronyms and acrostics for tough terms and repeat those over and over
  • Speak the terms out loud, so you get your hearing involved in the learning
  • If you are with a study buddy, quiz each other out loud. The teaching/repeating model is a great way to soak in information fast

Plan for some sleep and book-end your cramming around it

An all-nighter may be tempting, but your memory will come up short if you are overly tired. Instead cram for a few hours before bed, then wake up extra early to study more. You will feel more refreshed. Study the toughest things before bed so that your brain can help you tie all of those pieces together while it rests. In this way, that sleep is working for you!

Be careful with caffeine and other stimulants

Another big temptation, but if these stimulants are used the wrong way, you may be crashing and burning before the test even begins. Plus, if you are over-stimulated, your focus is going to be all over the place. During an exam cram and the actual test, focus is key.

How To Memorize Lines

The character Hamlet has over 1,400 lines. That’s a lot of memorizing. While not every role is Hamlet, memorization is key to your success as an actor. It’s important to memorize every word exactly (verbatim memorization)  since most playwrights don’t like it when you take liberties with their words.

How do actors pull off these amazing feats of memorization? There are quite a few techniques that work, though all take hard work.

Set goals and deadlines

Just like any other activity with strict deadlines (you have to go on, you know), goals and deadlines are going to be a big motivator. Reward yourself when you reach a goal, so you’ll be more likely to do it again.

Know the meaning of your lines

It’s tough to memorize something you don’t quite understand. If you are performing a classic (like Shakespeare), some of the lines, soliloquies and monologues can be complex and filled with double meanings. Study up on your lines before you do anything else. Decide on their meanings for you. You’ll find it’s easier than to memorize these lines as they will feel much more familiar.

Remember, too, that you are memorizing not only to know the line verbatim, but to also deliver it to another actor in a conversation. Knowing the meaning then will give you the context you need to deliver your memorized line the right way.

Repetition is at the core

Memorizing your lines exactly is going to take lots and lots of repetition. I’ll repeat: lots and lots of repetition. Your goal is to get these words cemented into your short-term memory as quickly as possible. To do this and not drive yourself insane, there are many devices actors use to break up the monotony.

Speak your lines out loud
Yes, memorization happens in your head, but your mouth needs to get used to saying these words. In fact, you are forming the habit of saying these words when you speak them out loud.

Write out your lines
A terrific way to repeat your lines is to simply write them out over and over again. With this technique you are also using multiple senses, so your brain is more engaged and your lines will be memorized more quickly.

Record your lines and listen to them and repeat them during your commute
Again, this technique uses multiple senses, so you’ll learn your lines quicker. This is a great tip, too, because it lets you use every moment of spare time you have to memorize. Especially if your commute is on public transit. It can be embarrassing to speak  out loud or mouth your words in front of total strangers. When you can listen to them using a digital recorder (or saving the files from a digital recorder onto your smart phone), you can sit back and continue to learn in any scenario.

Break down your monologues into beats
Sometimes when a monologue is huge, your best solution is chunking, or what actors call breaking the monologue down into beats. These beats help you better understand the monologue’s context, and they give you like-minded mini-bites of text to work on instead of a big wall of text.

Read through your lines (or listen to it) right before bed
While sleeping, your mind does a lot of hard work for you, especially with making relationships between unrelated words. You’ll find that just reading the play every night will make your memorization goals much easier.

Get your fellow actors involved as a team

Speed reads and walk-throughs are essential for your memorization. Remember, you are not only memorizing your lines, but also your cues to say them. Become familiar with the  lines surrounding your lines. Get used to the entrances and actually walk the stage where you will be. Have actor cue parties where you repeat (and even act out)  the tough moments in the play. Here you are switching from rote learning (lone repetition) to active learning (you are up and living the lines), and it’s where you begin really owning your character.

How To Study Effectively

This article is all about how to study effectively (which takes time), not how to exam cram. If you are in the middle of an exam cram and you need some memorizing help, check out this exam cram article for some great tips to use.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Learning is an exciting thing, and learning how to study effectively is a crucial. Repetition is a part of it, but to really know the material for life there is more you should do. Much more. Take a look at these tips below that can help you own whatever it is you are studying whether you are a student, a business person or a life-long learner.

Make learning goals

You need to put a little pressure on yourself to make the most out of your learning experience. Setting goals keeps you moving forward, simple as that. Without them, you’ll find that it’s easy to take short cuts or even stop the learning process all together. When you hit a goal, reward yourself. Positive reinforcement can go a long way to creating strong learning habits.

Give yourself time and be patient

Nothing can be learned effectively when you only have a few hours or days to own the material. Those moments happen in life, and if you are in one there are tips for you here. But to really know your material cold, you need time. Weeks, even months. Sometimes years. It can be a grueling and frustrating journey, but it’s worth it for what you’ll know afterwards. So be realistic and be patient. If you are in school this means begin studying day 1 of whatever class you are taking. You’ll need the time.

Build associations between tough concepts and things you know

It’s tough to remember what you don’t truly understand. And to understand something, there are few better techniques that building associations between tough concepts and things you already know really, really well. This will make those concepts feel more at home in your brain. For instance, if you are excellent at carpentry, maybe there is a way to associate the way something is built to whatever you are learning now. These associations are everywhere, but they are specific to every learner. Look for yours. It will make the learning much easier.

Study each night right before bed

Studies have shown that the brain during sleep does wonders at helping you cement together seemingly unrelated ideas (see the memorizing techniques article). Use this to your advantage. Study things that are giving you problems right before retiring for the night.

Learn by watching others

Book learning can only take you so far when you are trying to totally get a concept. You need to branch out and see what you are trying to learn in action. Something that seems so difficult in words may be an easy thing to process the minute you see another person do it. Plus, when you watch others, you’ll begin to learn the mental and physical patterns associated with the task. It will make jumping in yourself that much easier.

Immerse yourself

When you can (and when it’s safe), jump right into whatever it is you are trying to learn. You’ll make mistakes, but the more important thing is that you’ll learn from them. You’ll also form the lasting physical and mental habits you need to really own your material.

You may be thinking that this is great for courses and topics where there are things you actually can do like math, sciences and computers, but what about studying history or theories? You can immerse yourself here too. Visit museums. Go to the actual locations where the history occurred. Find experts in those fields and ask them for an hour of their time where you can pick their brain. Even talk to people who lived the history.

Use various media

Vary the media through which you study to keep your brain active. After staring at a book for hours on end, your brain may begin to shut down for any more learning in that fashion. It may be time for a break. Or you could audio record certain key concepts and listen to them or find television documentaries that are relevant to the subject. This can keep the learning going when you’ve hit a wall through another method.

Use repetition

There is no getting away from it, repetition is still a key player in any studying. There are some great tips on repetition in How To Memorize Lines, and many are true here too. Mnemonics like acronyms and acrostics also play a key role here.

Get rid of other distractions

To really study well, you need to set aside the phone, the television or whatever else there is in your life that can take your attention away from the task at hand. If you need to, go to the library to study and only bring the materials you really need. Leave those cell phones at home. Or opt for some noise canceling headphones to rid the distractions around you if you don’t have full control over the environment.