## Hook: do you still have the mentality of a student
(NR: School of life student mentality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJhUs1L_RQo)

Repetition is the work

Repetition is execution. You have this idea of how you want to present next week, and now that you have your outline set up, all you need to do is to practice is so that it’s smooth.

Did you know that there are bad and good ways in practising? Research has shown that if you memorise your speech using pen and paper, you’re more likely to have a stuttered speech instead of a smooth one?


Memorisation is not a new problem

Public speaking since the time of Socrates has struggled with the same problem: the limitations on our memories. It’s common for a monk to spend his entire life to memorise a holy book like the Bodisatvaattaya or the Bible. If it can take that long just to memorise something, is it even worth memorising a speech for your next presentation?

The answer is a resounding YES!

The act of memorising allows you to simulate what’s going to happen within 50% of the environment that you can control. The other 50% is the audience, and their minds are sometimes not even under their control (especially when they’re on Instagram, scrolling through their feeds).


Our memory is so limited that the most we can remember is 7 items +/-2. It means we can remember on average 5 to 9 items. We will use these magical numbers to help us memorise our speech.



Two different type of speakers

Yesterday, I asked my friend Alan (not his real name), who was practicing for a speech competition how he writes his speech. “I don’t,” he told me, “The most I’ll write is six lines, two words on each.” He thinks while speaking, and he loves to make make changes to the speech on the fly in front of an audience.

On the other end, another friend Mark (also not his real name), who was a regular in the Toastmasters meeting I went to, had to write his entire speech down before he’s ready to read it out loud for the first time.

Mark and Alan have two different method in thinking. Alan speaks to think and Mark writes to think. Both working method is fine, the question now is how to memorise in such that it plays to both strengths.


Two different goals in memorising

Mark and Alan has two very different goals when memorising their speech. Alan wants to have a smoother flow in presenting, without necessarily wanting to memorise every word. In fact he is scared to sound like a robot: “When I can’t remember the next word, it became too much, I froze with my eyes glued to the ceiling.”

While Mark wants to stick with his words as close as possible. After all, for a typical speech, he writes 2000 words and cut it down to 1000 words on paper. He likes the feeling of polished words written down. Imagine how he looks on stage as he speaks these words of power. The only problem is he now need to memorise them.



Memorising for flow

(NR-Need Research: how long does this take? Answer: one hour https://www.businessinsider.sg/how-to-memorize-a-speech-in-an-hour-2016-3?r=US&IR=T) Using Memory Palace

Actually actors look for throughlines, they don’t memorise word for word: https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/how-be-brilliant/201206/how-actors-remember-their-lines


Memorising for word-for-word

(NR: how long does this take?)

# These two methods are connected
The methods are the same method in a grand scheme of things.

One is a sprint, another is marathon (NR: how do people train for a marathon? Answer: sprinting does more interval training for the goal of running faster, whereas Marathon is about not giving up i.e. persistence)

Like a babushka doll, they encapsulated different aspect of word connections in our minds. On one, since we are looking for the flow, it’s much easier start zoomed out, where as Mark’s goal require longer practice session, so it’s easier to chunk the word into biteable pieces.

(DO: Find the writings I’ve done on the sandwich forum before)



Danger in repeating by reading from paper. When you read out loud, the brain thinks you’ve memorised it, but until you’ve tested for recall. That’s not accurate. This is because of a *mere-exposure*, zeigarnik effect. (EXPAND: Zeigarnik effect)


Get a clear goal on when to stop

When do you stop? You stop when you can can go through the material in half of the time you have allocated. But what if you forget how to expand it? Incredibly this is one area that people get scared. What if they have nothing to say, that’ll be a social suicide. But this won’t happen. You’re words would be much more like to expand when you’re nervous.


### Writing Session: tell a story of Laura
The woman’s name is Laura, she looks the least intimidating in the class. Our attention lock eyes, and she smiled. Then she invited me to sit next to her. She is dressed simply in white blouse and work skirt, with gold earrings dangling on her ears. Short haired, she moves her head a lot as she speaks.

I asks her how does she memorise her speech.

“I talk it out loud”, she said, “over and over. It takes a long time until I can do one full pass of the speech.”

Laura’s method is a common method employed by many. Read the speech many times from the beginning until some part sticks. Memorising a speech this way is like brute forcing, an unintelligent method computers use to guess your password one word at a time without much guessing. It works in theory, but because humans are not computers, we get bored, rather fast. And then we stop.


Writing session: tell a story about Paul

Let me tell you a story about Paul. He is always the first to put his hands up whenever there is a Table Topic session. Table Topic is part of a Toastmasters meeting where everyone is invited to come up on stage and speak for 2 minutes. About what? The facilitator will decide, and they will ask anyone who volunteers a questions, or sometime a statement even. Your sole job for the next two minutes is to talk about it. Preferrably with good technique: good structure, good articulation, sprinkle in stage presence using gestures and so on.

Paul loves speaking impromptu. He explodes on the stage with speed, his hands wave as fast as he utters the words. His energy fills the room, we assign “Tornado” as his middle name.

When it comes to prepared speeches though, Paul has difficulties to overcome. He wrote the bone of his speech down, and he improvise on top. On average, he is good enough to articulate the points clearly, but not persuasively. His energy is persuasive but not his arguments.

In the last few years, he wrote the entire speech down, and memorise it. But it never worked so well. He procrastinated until the last minute, and leaving it to chance as to whether he will remember the lines he has prepared on the notes.

If we look at his reasons, there are a number of reasons:


Setting goal for memorising

Setting the right goal to memorise is important. Is it 50% flow, or exact words? Most people only need 50% flow, so the technique used is different to if you need exact words like studying Spanish for example.

Example of speech: intro, body #1, body #2, body #3, conclusion.

On 50% flow, the important bits are the main points, and the connecting thoughts. A typical speech can be summarised in 5 bullet points: intro, point 1, point 2, point 3, conclusion. Then you need 4 connecting points to those. In total, you have to remember 9 things. It’s doable.


How to memorise for flow



OR memory castle


Have a timed-session just like Natalie Goldberg writing session. Speaking session can be timed too. If you’re speaking for 30 minutes, first have a 1 minute version, then have a 3 minute version, then a 10 minute, 20 minute and 30 minutes.

Seems to be a lot of work, but it’s frontloaded. The first few practice gives you a lot more structure.



After you made it easy, repetition is a key. How do you then make a habit to repeat?

Regardless of which one you choose, there’s one more thing that can help you, that is the Peak-end rule.
Peak-end rule, if you enjoy recalling things, then memorisation is not really going to be a problem for you.

Start from intro, then conclusion, then body point #1, body point #3, then lastly body point #2. All interconnecting segue needs to be repeated anytime you have a section that starts or ends with them.


The recalling is the work, the connecting is the work, it’s not the “being right”, you’re not being tested when you’re trying to memorise, you’re trying to get the flow of the narrative right.



Memorising goes back to how to learn how to learn

It’s about finding out how your brain likes to work. What kind of mental model have you developed, how to hook it to things you already know and understand



Lots of ways to memorise, what has worked for you and what do you want to try next?

Martha Winata

CEO & Co-founder of Get Sandwich

Martha coaches people presenting on startup pitches and science presentation grants. When she's not hard at work helping people present better, she can be found travelling around the globe and eating delicious delicacies.