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How to Quickly Memorize a Speech (In Under an Hour)

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Read Time: 10 mins

The clock is ticking and soon you've got to get on stage and deliver the speech of your life. But you don’t have a single word memorized yet. What on earth are you supposed to do in such a situation? 

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Someone giving a rousing speech. (Image source: Envato Elements)

First of all, don’t panic. But second, though this is an understandably stressful situation, it doesn’t need to paralyze you. In fact, you can use a bit of that adrenaline to fuel. It'll motivate you to get the speech memorized and to prepare yourself mentally to deliver it in front of an audience. 

Whether it’s for a packed theater or an audience of one, today, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions for memorizing a speech quickly – sometimes under an hour’s time. 

Reasons You May Need to Memorize a Speech Quickly 

You won’t always be under such time constraints, of course, but sometimes speech memorization really does wind up being a last-minute thing. If you’re curious about what situations might cause such restrictions, here are a few possibilities: 

  • You've got a last-minute presentation to give. Whether someone else canceled or you were recruited with little notice, having memorization techniques at the ready could prove helpful if you need to prep with limited time.
  • You’ve had to update a previously memorized speech. Maybe you’re prepared to give a speech over the past week, but some elements had to be rewritten or amended at the last minute? This is another case where knowing how to memorize information quickly would be invaluable. 
  • You’re an actor or performance artist. Memorization is a part of your work-life regularly, so having some extra ways to memorize more quickly could prove helpful. 

Is it Possible to Memorize a Speech in a Day (or Less)? 

Now, you may be wondering if it’s even possible to memorize a speech in a day, let alone a single hour.

The answer is absolutely, yes. You can! But it’s not truly a matter of memorizing a huge chunk of text verbatim. The methods of memorization we’ll be discussing here today are intended largely for the corporate set. These folks need to memorize the themes, intention, and main points of a speech rather than a word-for-word regurgitation. 

How to Memorize a Speech in an Hour (Traditional Method)

Teen boy memorizing something.Teen boy memorizing something.Teen boy memorizing something.
Practice is a perfect way to memorize a speech. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The first method to memorize a speech in an hour or less we’ll talk about here's what we’re referring to as the “traditional” method. That is, it doesn’t really use any unfamiliar tricks. It’s a standard approach to memorization that can help you save some time and improve your recall. 

Let’s explore this process now. 

1. Write Your Speech Down 

The first thing you should do is to physically write your speech down. Now you can approach this in any number of ways. But most often people will choose to write out word-for-word what they’d like to say or create a structured outline of the topics and main points they’d like to address. 

Both approaches are valid and workable. The key here is to just get your ideas on paper, so you've got something to work with. This is especially important if there are specific industry terms, jargon, or slogans that you’d like to include to catch your audience’s attention. No matter your approach, get your ideas down on paper first. 

2. Read It Out Loud 

Next, read back what you wrote. Do so out loud so you can hear the flow of the words and get a feel for what it’ll be like delivering this speech to an audience. If you’ve created a script, you can literally read this out loud. But if you created an outline, you can reference your notes as you talk about the subject at hand. 

This process will allow you to identify clunky phrasing or bits that need clarification. It’ll also help you figure out the flow of your speech and what will sound best. 

For even more public speaking tips, review this tutorial:

3. Try a Recall Test 

When you’re happy with how your speech is sounding, you can perform a recall test.

This is just a matter of covering up your notes or script and seeing what you remember. Do your best to see what you remember. You might surprise yourself as to how much you’ve retained. 

4. Memorize the Main Points First 

When it comes to memorization, you’re better off locking in the bigger parts of your speech first before tackling the details. This is where creating an outline is actually really helpful. It helps you see what your main points are and what the primary topics of discussion will be. Then you can commit those large ideas and your main points about them to memory. 

For instance, if you’re giving a speech about a product, your main points might be its main features and how it solves the customer’s problems. Or, if you’re giving an informational speech, your main points might involve the evidence you have to back up an argument. 

5. Add in the Transitions and Small Sections Next

With those big ideas memorized, you can move on to the details and transitions. For some, this will be where you get the exact phrasing down. For others, it’ll be tiny details or the occasional turn of phrase you like and want to include. 

Then you can work on combining the larger points and the finer details into a cohesive whole. 

6. Perfect the Delivery 

Now that the majority of your speech is memorized, it’s time to get the delivery right. Work on saying your speech out loud in the mirror to make sure you’ve incorporated any gestures you’d like to include, movement, or the use of props or a PowerPoint presentation. 

This is also where you hone in on the appropriate intonation. You don’t want to sound like a robot, after all. 

For more tips on perfecting the delivery, review this tutorial:

7. Give the Speech to a Trusted Audience Member 

Once you’re happy with how your speech is sounding, perform it in front of a trusted audience member. This could be a co-worker, family member, or friend who you feel comfortable around and who you know will provide reliable feedback. 

After incorporating their notes, there’s nothing left to do but to go out there and give your speech! 

How to Memorize a Presentation or Speech (Mind Palace Method) 

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The Belvedere Palace in Vienna. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Though the above method of memorizing a speech is valuable and definitely works, it might not always fit within shorter time frames. To hasten the process, there’s another way to memorize a speech that relies much more on visualization and concepts than on words. 

1. Create an Outline of Talking Points 

The mind palace method starts out similarly to the traditional method in this regard. You begin by creating an outline of your speech. In this case you’re actively discouraged from trying to memorize it word for word. Instead, you'll come up with bullet points that encompass the general topics, themes, and points you’d like to cover. 

This approach leaves room for spontaneity and unique phrases and sentiments that you might express in the moment. 

2. Assign a Mental Image to Each Point 

Once you've got your outline completed, your next task is to give each main idea an image. Picture something really specific in your head to go along with each idea.

Mental ImageMental ImageMental Image
Assigning mental images to your ideas can help you to remember your speech. (Image source: Envato Elements)

So, if you were going to discuss finances as one of your main points, you might picture the dollar sign or a stack of money. Maybe even gold coins? Whatever image connects with the concept is what will work best for you. 

3. Create a Mind Palace in Your Home or Office

With images secure in your mind’s eye, your next task is to create what Ron White, a memory expert, calls a “mind palace.” It sounds a bit new-agey but it’s actually a time-honored practice used by William Shakespeare, even. 

How it works is that you assign a number to each piece of furniture in your home or office. So, you’d enter a room and walk around it in a natural way and assign a number to each large item in the space. So, the couch would be 1, the coffee table would be 2, the main lamp 3, and so forth. 

Walk around the space a few times reciting the numbers you’ve given each furniture item as you pass it. 

4. Assign the Mental Images to Spaces in Your Mind Palace 

With the lay of the land figured out, so to speak, you can now assign the mental images you made a couple of steps ago to each item of furniture. So, walk through the room again and stop at each furniture item then think of the mental image you created. But don’t stop at just a static image. Mentally bring it to life with as much sense-memory and emotion as possible. 

Using the money example mentioned earlier, listen to the sound of coins clattering onto a table, and think of how they’d feel in your hand. You can even imagine the metallic taste of metal if you were to bite a coin. 

Assign Mental ImagesAssign Mental ImagesAssign Mental Images
The more real the images seems, the better you'll be able to remember your idea. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The more visceral the imagery, the more effective it'll be for triggering your memory. 

Repeat this same process for each mental image you created. Then practice mentally touring your room and imagine pausing at each furniture item to recall the mental image. This is how you can access your speech’s bullet points – and eventually give the speech itself – without needing a single note in front of you. 

5. Practice, Practice, Practice 

Again, you'll need to practice this technique a bit to enjoy its full effects. But the great thing about the mind palace is that once you’ve created it, you can reuse it over and over with different mental images for different speeches. 

Plus, repeated practice will ensure you’ll always know where you are in your speech even if you don’t have your notes. You can always use visual aids or a presentation to go along with your speech. But with the mind palace, those aids are there for the audience and not something you’ll need to rely on.

Complement Your Speech With a PowerPoint Presentation

Though relying on a presentation isn’t ideal, having a PowerPoint on hand can help to trigger your memory if your mind ever goes blank. It can also help you to illustrate your points and serve as reinforcement for your audience. And thankfully, you don’t have to look very far to find compelling presentation templates to get started. 

Explore PowerPoint Templates

PowerPoint presentation templates on Envato Elements.PowerPoint presentation templates on Envato Elements.PowerPoint presentation templates on Envato Elements.
PowerPoint presentation templates on Envato Elements.

Envato Elements offers access to tons of PowerPoint presentation templates and many other design resources for one monthly subscription fee. 

Learn More About the Art of Giving Speeches 

If you want to take your speech-giving skills to the next level, we’ve covered the topic extensively in the past. Here are just a few tutorials and guides we’ve published on the subject:

Use the Best Way to Memorize a Speech for Your Circumstances

Having to give a speech can be a nerve-wracking ordeal. But if you take the time to bolster your memorization skills, you’ll find that you’re able to deliver speeches more eloquently, with greater confidence, and without forgetting anything important. 

And you can even create compelling graphics and presentations to go along with your speeches with PowerPoint templates, readily available from Envato Elements

There’s no time like the present to improve your speech memorization skills, so why not get started? 

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