April 6, 2023
6 min read
When people think about hurdles around giving a speech, the first thing that normally comes to mind is the fear of public speaking. If this is you, you’re not alone–many people fear public speaking more than death itself. Unfortunately, overcoming that fear is only half the battle if you want to give a truly powerful speech. Once you get over the sweaty palms and nerves, you still need to memorize the speech itself. Here’s the good news: while memorizing a speech seems intimidating at first, there are practical steps you can take to make memorization go smoothly.
Memorizing a speech presents a unique challenge: committing something to memory without it sounding robotic or artificial. Typically, the most impactful speakers are those who sound natural. If you’re not sure what it means to “sound natural”, check out these examples of great speakers:
It can be incredibly difficult to achieve that when you don’t know you speech–every word, every gesture, every pause–like the back of your hand. Ultimately, sounding natural is about developing a level of comfort with your material. That comfortability can only be achieved with the help of repetition (see Step #6 below!).
In this article, we’ll give you our practical guide to getting your speech committed to memory. Platforms like Yoodli’s AI speech coach are fantastic tools to help you practice natural delivery with targeted feedback and judgement-free insights. Below, you’ll find simple yet powerful structure you can implement to memorize your next class presentation, sales pitch, or wedding toast.
This one’s pretty simple. Before you start the memorization process, you need to have a solid script down on paper. It doesn’t have to be long–you can use this strategy to memorize a 15-second elevator pitch for your next job interview. No matter what this speech is for, seeing it on paper will help you feel confident that your speech is cohesive and structurally sound. Having a written record of your speech also means you can recycle it later on. When you’re on the job hunt, a written script of your elevator pitch will reduce the stress of introductions at interviews and networking events. If several of your friends are getting married in the next year, having a solid wedding reception toast in your back pocket will make you everyone’s favorite guest.
Here’s a tip for memorizing your speech: try handwriting your speech instead of typing it! Writing words down with a pen and paper increases your capacity to commit them to memory.
Once you have your script on paper, read it to see how everything sounds out loud. At this point, you may find something doesn’t sound quite right when it comes off the page. That’s nothing to worry about–this is where you pause to edit your script. It can be hard to tell how strong your speech sounds when reading it aloud to yourself. Try recording yourself and playing it back. This will help you catch tiny details you might otherwise miss. It’s essential that you take plenty of time for this step before you continue. You want your script to be perfect before you do the hard work to commit it to memory!
“Chunking”–that is, breaking down something massive into bite-sized “chunks”–is a tried-and-true memorization method. Now that you have your perfect script, it’s time to break it down into bite-sized pieces. This can be challenging: try to break down your speech into chunks associated with the speech’s structure. For example, if you were trying to “chunk” a movie script, you might break it up into Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. Your speech likely doesn’t have a clear-cut three-act structure, but it probably does have structural elements, such as an introduction and a conclusion.
This step is your biggest ally in the battle of memorization. Tackling your speech in chunks will help you get a comprehensive understanding of the flow of the entire piece. Furthermore, memorizing a chunk is much less daunting than memorizing a ten-minute talk. Create a unique name for each chunk, whether those are Intro, Main Point 1, etc. or Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, and just memorize the order of those chunks. This step is quick, but it sets the foundation for the rest of the process.
In this step, we’re moving farther down the hierarchy of chunks. At this point, you have the larger chunks of the script memorized–the overarching structure should be set in stone. The next step is to have the subsections of each of these chunks memorized. These subsections should be the key points or beats you’ll hit in each chunk. Again, you can think of this like memorizing movie scenes within each act–Act 1, Scene 1, then Act 1, Scene 2, and so on.
Quizzing yourself on these sequences with flashcards is a reliable way to memorize the smaller chunks. Since there are more of these smaller chunks, this part of the process will naturally take a bit more time. By the end of it, you should be confident in the entire flow of your script.
Now that you have the flow and structure of your speech down, it’s finally time to work with the content of your script. When memorizing, always start with structure and flow, and introduce your actual words last. The main benefit of this is that understanding flow frees you from the limitations of a script. Relying on a script without understanding its flow will hold you back when that pesky fear of public speaking, glossophobia, comes into play. Nerves can make you forget a word or breathe in the wrong place. However, you now understand the beats and structure of your speech well enough to find your bearings even if you miss a word or two from your script.
At this point in the process, you will try presenting your speech without reading it off your script. One easy way to check how well what you’re saying matches your script is Yoodli‘s real-time transcription feature.
With the script you perfected in Step #2, highlight the text with different colors depending on which chunk it belongs to. The key here is working in manageable pieces. Memorize one chunk completely before taking on another one. Only after you’ve memorized every chunk individually should you put them together and practice your speech in its entirety.
At this point, you know this speech like the back of your hand. All you can do now is practice. You have the structure and content committed to memory, so the only area left to work on is your delivery. As we mentioned earlier, platforms like Yoodli’s public speaking coach are great resources to use if you want to sound natural. With Yoodli, you can get actionable speech insights and build up your public speaking confidence, 100% judgement-free. You have everything you need to memorize any speech, from an elevator pitch to a Shakespearean soliloquy.
As with everything, practice (and preparation) makes perfect!
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.