how to memorise a speech or presentation

Do you stress that you may forget your words when addressing an audience?

Written by Yoke van Dam

Sometimes when the pressure is on, our minds can hit a blank, leaving us feeling embarrassed and quickly sending us into fight and flight mode.

In March I had an interesting dilemma. I was training women in Dubai on 2 courses that I was very well oiled in.

While last week I had to deliver a brand new course-and it was very overwhelming knowing where to start to study the material and imprint it in my mind.

The more you do something-the easier it becomes

When you read the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza, around “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Which means the more times you do a speech, or deliver a training, or do a product demo, it creates neural pathways in your mind, that becomes hard-wired. Which means that its very easy to recall the stories, the slides or do the demo.

While with this new course-it started of with nothing, this was a blank canvas that I had to fill in. Sometimes a big speech, training or pitch can be so overwhelming we don’t even know where to start.

Here are some ideas on learning new material for a pitch, a conference address or a training seminar

  1. Make use of a second screen

You can have the slides on one screen, while on the other, you can view the notes. If your script was written by someone else, see if you could change it into your own words.

2. Take your cell phone and do a voice recording.

  • We all have different learning styles ranging from Visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic.


I learn by making mind maps, seeing them visually, writing them down, summarizing them, and sometimes even drawing pictures, but then also saying them aloud and playing them back to me.


When I hear my script out loud, it imprints in my mind, but it’s also a way to test if the spoken word sounds good and makes sense. So practice your opening, closing, and important stories out loud.


If you are a Kinaesthetic learner, you will do your best by practicing in front of a few colleagues, where you can feel that you are doing it.

3. Make a zoom recording

If you are training virtually, you can do a “dry run” without the audience and record yourself to see what your body language looks like and if you sound like you know the material. We are our worst critics; you will significantly improve if you can listen to your voice and watch your body language.

4. Print out handouts for yourself.

When you print your slides as handouts of 3, it gives you space where you can make extra notes for yourself. Then, summarise it in visual ways, either by using notecards or a mind map. It’s always a good idea to back up your presentation on paper in case technology fails.

5. Add personal stories

When you tell a personal story, it creates authenticity and adds a range of emotions. I would also like you to add your personal stories because they are your truth something you won’t forget.

6. Work out your timing

If you pitch to a client, could you find out how long the session will be and what format they expect? Is it an online meeting over MS teams or Zoom or in person? Will you have a microphone, who will be in the audience, and what visual aids can you use?

Could you make sure to speak shorter than expected to leave time for questions and engagement with the client?

Important tips

If you are running a seminar or two full days as I did. You can break your time down according to activities and topics to know if you are on time or need to catch up.

When speaking at a conference, the speakers before you often go over their time, meaning they might ask you to cut your 60-minute talk down to 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 15, or even 5 minutes.

Remember that anything new is like a new pathway that you need to create in your mind. The more often you rehearse it, say it out loud, and practice it-the pathways will get aligned and eventually become hard-wired. You have to put the effort in. When you are standing in front of that audience and have that super-highway in your mind, you can put your car in drive and watch the speech play out powerfully, just as you practiced it!

Yoke van Dam

If you have a team that wants to ace their next pitch, or become powerful speakers, I’d love to be your guide. #storytelling #presentations #publicspeaking