How to deliver a speech from memory – The linking method

So you’ve written the perfect speech filled with personal memories, original thoughts and witty observations.

Now all you have to do is deliver it.

You can of course read it off the page but there is a better way. Delivering a speech from memory allows you to make eye contact with you audience, to gesture freely and improves the overall flow.

There are any many ways to deliver a speech from memory, but one of the quickest and easiest methods is to chunk and link your speech into rememberable sections.

Here are 7 quick steps to show you how

How to memorise any speech

You need to give a speech at Gettysburg. You already have a wonderful beard but that’s not enough. You want to look the crowd in the eye and amaze them.

Your speech is already written and goes something like this.

Gettysburg Address - Abraham Lincoln (text wrapping example) - James Tiffin Jr.Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Darn it but you’ve got a good speechwriter!

Now to memorise the speech.

 1. Read the speech aloud a few times.

Read the speech aloud at least 5 times. This helps the words and structure sink into your subconscious.

2. Make each paragraph a sentence

Go through the speech and summarise each paragraph as a sentence.

  • Four score and seven years ago a new nation was created based on liberty and equality.
  • We are testing that equality during this war and come here today to dedicate this battlefield as a graveyard.
  • But we cannot dedicate it as it is already hallowed by the blood of those who have fought and died here.
  • We must make sure they did not die in vain and continue to fight for a free America.

3. Make each sentence into a word

Go through each new sentence and summarise it into a single word.

  • Equal
  • Graveyard
  • Blood
  • Free

4. Memorise the words

This is the fun bit. Now you need to link these words together in your mind by creating bizarre and hilarious picture links between them.

  • An equals sign is being buried. Its friends, all the digits and other arithmetic symbols, weep as the casket is lowered into a grave
  • You are in a graveyard when blood starts to pour out of the graves. Your heart starts to beat faster as the blood pools around your feet
  • A blood bank is having a special offer – buy one pint of blood, get another Free. People are rioting to take advantage of this amazing offer!

Make the images as ridiculous as you can. Sexual, rude and disgusting images are especially effective.

5. Add a starting image

Link the first keyword to an image representing your speech. That way when you stand up to speek the first part of the speech will instantly come to mind.

On a Battlefield lots of Equals signs are fighting lots of plus signs.

6. Practice and deliver your speech

The most important part of every speech. Practice until you can deliver the speech as if it were a conversation with your friend.

7. Don’t worry about getting it wrong

The wonderful thing about delivering a speech from memory is that no one knows exactly what you were planning to say. So if you get a few words in the wrong order, or forget to mention something, don’t worry, no-one need ever know. Above all they will prefer the casual nature of a speech delivered from memory much more than one read from a page.

Try it and see

Give it a go! Memorise this short speech by Winston Churchill and share the keywords and crazy images you come up with in the comments below.

  • Image Credits
  • Diagram of brain – “Gray727 anterior cingulate cortex” by Brodmann, Mysid. Colured by was_a_bee. – File:Gray727.svg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln (text wrapping example) – James Tiffin Jr. Used under Creative Commons.

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