Memorization – Thoughts on this Skill from Actors and Science
I read something some time back that I thought might be useful to us in Toastmasters. The article in the Chicago Tribune’s A+E section on June 22, 2014 was called “Memorize This” and I hope that you get some ideas for yourself in reading this synopsis.
I spent some of my formative years involved in theater and I was able to memorize large chunks of dialog as do the actors that Nina Metz profiles for her piece. These days I hope that I can retain enough of my planned speech to make sense as I deliver it in front of our club.
Here are some of the tips that the actors offered, their favored methods to memorize dialog:
- Take a sheet of scrap paper, folded in half and cover over everything but the sentence that you are trying to memorize.
- Actors strive to be ‘word perfect’, meaning that they want the exact words in the exact sequence as the script – we are lucky in that we are the writer and so can ‘edit’ on the fly as long as we get the gist of our ideas across to our audience.
- Older actors recommend taking more time to learn the lines.
- Mnemonic devices like writing the first letter of every word.
- Writing down your speech, by hand, gets the hand-eye-brain coordination working.
- Use a ‘memory palace’ – picture the house that you grew up in and place the information that you are working to memorize around the house in order. (This can help with your use of the speaking area, if you practice movement and positioning – known as blocking in the theater – along with the speech.)
- Record your speech and play it back for yourself.
- Read a section and then take a nap (yes, I like this one so far) so that the brain can take this short term memory and move it into longer term storage.
- Walk after the nap and your muscle movement will speed up the memorization/recall process. (I use this one quite a bit, myself.)
- Scientific American research found that “students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more” than those who use a laptop.
There are plenty of methods to memorize your speech. Some will be more or less effective depending upon your writing and speaking styles. Luckily for all of us, memorization gets better with practice.