How to memorize A 10 hour long speech

Read Time: 4:30 Minutes

Something which I have always taken great pride in is that I am able to talk for a very, very long time without notes. It's just something I was born with, my grandma used to ask me "Haven't you run out of words yet?!" when I would chatter as a little kid. People always seem surprised that I don't need notes for speeches, no matter how long, even while citing statistics and telling stories. 

I've called this post "How to memorize a 10 hour long speech" because in it I want to let you know my top 3 pieces of advice for memorizing your content so well you can talk as long as you need to about it. 

So without any further ado, here they are

Stick to a Vague Outline

From the courses I have gone through on presenting and from some of the most popular books on the subject, one commonly touted piece of advice which is just downright wrong is that you should have a detailed outline. 

Most people when preparing for a presentation have it mapped out to a very detailed level. They have everything written down. Hell, some people have their speeches scripted word for word. 

This is a massive mistake on two main counts. 

First and most importantly is that when you build a speech that is too detailed you run the risk of losing the forest for the trees. You run the risk of looking at such tiny detail that you miss the bigger picture. This can be really nasty. Some of the people who I have seen fail their presentations in spectacular fashion are people who try to outline the presentation too much. These people are prone to losing their place when speaking then have a long awkward silence as they try to get back on track. They are the type of person who stumbles on their words, stutters, and double talks often. The reason being that they are trying to stick to a script and any slight shift makes them feel like they are messing up. 

The second big issue with scripting yourself out too much is that it takes away any dynamism. When your presentation is to carefully crafted you lose that element of spontaneity that makes presentation exciting. You lose the opportunity to tell a small joke or to tailor the message to your audience when you get to detailed in your outline. 

As counter intuitive as it might seem your speech will be more fluid when you don't know exactly what you will say. 

Create a Soundbite Swipe-file

A swipe-file is a term from copy writing and advertising that I have brought over to the area of presentation skills. These files were folders where advertisers and writers would keep clippings of great writing or great advertisements they had seen. These files were used to pull on for inspiration and for stylistic ideas when they hit a creative block. 

In the same way as those advertisers, as speakers and presenters we need to have a file where we keep the statistics and the stories which we use on a regular basis when presenting. I have a little box on my bookshelf full of note cards. On these note cards are written many interesting statistics, interesting stories, and different bits of information which I frequently utilize in my speeches. By having this swipe file on hand and looking through it regularly I am able to make sure that I have enough information to fill in the big beats of my relatively vague outline. 

Use a Nonverbal Script

The last technique which I use to ensure that I can speak for long periods of time is to incorporate what I call 'nonverbal scripting' into your presentations. Nonverbal scripting is just what it sounds like, adding gestures and motion to your speeches strategically so that you know what body language you will use and when you will use it. 

For example, if you are telling a story about the first 5 years of your work career you might strategically start off on one side of the room and then slowly walk over to the other side as you tell a story. Your body language would be mimicking your story. 

Or for each of the soundbites and stats you have written down in your swipe file you might practice a certain gesture over and over again. 

The reason that incorporating a nonverbal script matters when you are preparing for your presentations is that when you add a nonverbal gesture to any piece of data, it helps you to remember it more quickly and reliably. So when you train with specific gestures and body language around different parts of your speech, remembering it will be far easier. 


I firmly believe that if you execute on all three of those strategies, memorizing speeches will be far easier for you in the future. Let me know in the comments below which one of these techniques is your favorite and what you are going to do to use it in your career. 

All the best, 

- Max

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