It happens to all of us: We’re introduced to someone and immediately forget his or her name. Or, we have an action item we intend to discuss at the staff meeting and we realize afterward that we neglected to address it. Over 250 years ago, English writer Samuel Johnson offered the best memory aid of all time when he said, “The true art of memory is the art of attention.”
Paying attention enhances our memory, but it’s not a simple feat. Fortunately, we can employ numerous tricks to make sure information sticks. For instance, we’ve all heard the admonition to use someone’s name (or repeat it to yourself) three times upon meeting the person. And many of us know to find something noteworthy about that person that we can link to their name in our memory banks.
But what about when you must remember points you want to make in a meeting or presentation? Many fall back on rote memorization. Not a high success rate with that technique. However, there’s a neat little memory trick called stacking that I use to present information in a specific order. Starting with my toes and moving my way up to ankles, calves, knees and so on, I assign one item that I need to recall to each body part and I give it an outrageous visual. For instance, when I opened a speech with a statistic about the percentage of medical patients who are stressed out, I envisioned my toes as little doctors and nurses yelling and anxious.
The necessary next step in retaining material requires rehearsal. Research has found that breaking up your practice (rehearsal) sessions into smaller chunks is more effective for retention versus trying to memorize information during one long session.
Practicing the art of attention, employing memory tricks like visual imagery and stacking and then rehearsing your material will allow you to confidently remember the information you want, when you want it.
Stack the odds of remembering in your favor using these techniques.