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Memory is not just about remembering things.

It’s a survival instinct. It is who you are at this moment in time.

Your memories shape your character and help you deal with everyday situations by allowing you to go back to the experiences you’ve had, extract the general principles from them, and then use those principles to figure out what to do next.

This isn’t just made up, it’s science.

Memory kind of helps you predict the future by stopping you making a bad or life threatening decision or freezing up during a presentation because you don’t know what to say next.

There is a very deep connection between the way we remember an event and the space in which it occurred

Research into brain science has also proven that there is a very deep connection between the way we remember an event and the space in which it occurred.

The brain system that is important for memory is also important for space; in other words, we remember things on the basis of spatial locations or “spatial paths.”

We are going to use this system to help you remember what to say next during your presentation.

This system stems from an ancient Greek memory technique, commonly referred to as “Method of Loci” , you may know it as the “Memory Palace” technique, popularised by the BBC TV series “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

In reality, it was actually said to date back to 477 BC and  attributed to the Greek philosopher Simonides.

The term “Memory Palace” is a bit misleading, as we don’t all live in a palace (but if you did, it would certainly help!)

The “Method of Loci” is probably the most effective way to learn a presentationClick To Tweet

The “Method of Loci” is probably the most effective way to learn a presentation because the worst thing you can do is learn a presentation word for word parrot fashion, as you simply lose the passion, and worse still risk losing the audience because they stop believing in you.

All you need to do to amaze your audience with your powerful memory is the following.

Write out your presentation

Create an outline of your presentation. List down all of your talking points and make note of the most prominent words for each one.

You will use these words to make visual associations in your imagined scene. Following that, you can start with your mental construction:

Choose a location

Pick a place to use for this particular presentation. It’s better if you go with a place you’re completely familiar with, like your home or the office. You’ll find it’s good to build up as many locations as possible because using the same one over and over can get confusing.

You’ve probably already got a few without knowing it; your family home, your gym, a favourite walk – even a film you’ve watched many times, like Star Wars.

Set a path

Decide on a route you’re going to mentally walk through. For example, if you’re using your home as your memory palace, it can be the walk from the front door through to the living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.

Imagine walking through it

Focus on all the items and features you see along your route. For example, from the front door, you enter the hallway, hang up your coat on the coat hooks and go into your kitchen and make a cup of tea.

If you are not already familiar with your house, walk through it observing all the things in place –  the cupboard, the lamp, the television etc. These object will become “hooks” on which you place the things you want to remember. It’s really important you get a strong mental picture of the objects around your house on your path.

Refer back to your presentation outline 

Take the most important words you took note of and make visual associations you can insert to your memory palace.

Place these associations in the specific features you’ve identified in your route.

Try to place associations that are extraordinary, ridiculous, funny extra large, extra small, sexual, absurd. Try and use all the senses – smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste.

Strengthen the connections

Simply revisit your memory palace if you find yourself stumped during the presentation.

Take note and memorise all the associations you’ve made. After some time, you will find that you’ve memorised your speech completely.

Simply revisit your memory palace if you find yourself stumped during the presentation.

After building your memory palace, you won’t have to worry about forgetting what comes next in your presentation. Take a cue from some of the greatest minds in history, and you can save your note cards for another occasion.


Welcome to my Memory Palace

Let’s take a look at the system in practice. I’m preparing for a presentation on the building blocks of app design. I need to remember my beginning and six key topics to talk about, and a good ending to help it stick in the audience’s head. It goes like this:

  1. Beginning – Flowers
  2. Application Definition Statement
  3. Structure
  4. Navigation
  5. Appearance
  6. Function
  7. Responsiveness
  8. Optimisation
  9. Fun
  10. Ending – Summary & a lasting acronym to remember

And this is the Memory Palace I’ve created to help me remember this flow:

Beginning – Flowers (an acronym I’ll be using in the presentation)

I imagine walking up to my front door and noticing someone has created a sign made of flowers saying “Welcome Home” they smell lovely, lilies, roses, sunflowers, all my favourites.

Application Definition Statement

I open the door to be greeted by my pet Ape named “App” who is a big Orangutan who gives me a really big hug.

Structure

I go the end of my hallway to hang my coat up and notice a framed blueprint of my house with pictures next to it showing the house being built stage by stage.

Navigation

I go to the bathroom to wash my hands and notice the tops of the taps have been replaced with compasses and the big mirror on the wall has also a magical compass which floats inside it.

Appearance

I gaze into the mirror to check my the way I look pulling funny faces as I do.

Function

I go into the kitchen and notice my kettle now has function keys stuck to it as if someone has pulled apart several keyboards and stuck the “fn” from all of them to the kettle.

Responsiveness

As soon as I touch any of them they light up and play a note, they are very responsive to touch.

Optimisation

I boil the kettle and take out my cafetiere which has now got a transparent digital display which reads the amount of coffee you put into it, tell you about the coffee and how hot the water is and of course when the coffee has reached its optimum strength.

Fun

I get out my favourite mug, the one with the clown whose hair turns from green to red once you put the hot coffee in – it’s very funny.

Ending – and reminder of FLOWERS acronym

I go to sit down and watch some TV when I notice a bowl of Saffron flowers floating in a beautiful cut glass green bowl on my glass table, beautiful purple Saffron flowers .

I turn on the TV and settle down to watch my favourite film, The Jungle Book, with “App” my pet Ape by my side.

Now take a presentation you are already fairly familiar with and use the method of Loci to practice your technique and flex those mental muscles.

https://i0.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/maxresdefault-1.jpg?fit=1024%2C576https://i0.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/maxresdefault-1.jpg?resize=150%2C150Byron WijayawardenaPersonal Creativity
Memory is not just about remembering things. It’s a survival instinct. It is who you are at this moment in time. Your memories shape your character and help you deal with everyday situations by allowing you to go back to the experiences you’ve had, extract the general principles from...
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Byron Wijayawardena
Byron has done a lot of presentations… A LOT! Over 11 years at Apple - on average 4 presentations a week - that's almost 2000 presentations, not to mention all the presentations he has had to sit through from probably the best presenters on the planet. You would hope he would have learnt a thing or two about presentations - something that he would be glad to pass on to you.