How to Remember the Points of Your Talk

August 14, 2012

Dale Carnegie had a knack for delivering riveting speeches—full of facts and details—with seldom having to resort to cue cards. How did he do it?

According to an entry in his book, “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” there are only two ways by which we can possibly think of a thing: first, by means of an outside stimulus; second, by association with something already in the mind.

Applied to speeches, that means just this: First, you can recall your points by the aid of some outside stimulus such as notes—but who likes to see a speaker use notes? (Thus, the reason Carnegie seldom used them!) Second, you can remember your points by associating them with something already in the mind as long as they are arranged in a logical order that the first one leads inevitably to the second, and the second to the third—similar to how the door of one room leads into another.

Carnegie said that there is a method of tying your points together that is easy, rapid, and all but foolproof. He refers to the use of a “nonsense sentence.” To illustrate this point he uses the following example:

Suppose you wish to discuss a veritable jumble of unassociated ideas that would be hard to remember, such as horse, pipe, Elvis, school, and banana. Your next step, according to Carnegie, would be to weld those ideas like the links of a chain by means of an absurd sentence such as: “The horse smoked a pipe as Elvis cleaned the school with a banana.”

Now picture that little scenario in your mind. Then read that sentence again and then take a test that Carnegie proposed in his book: Cover the sentence and answer the following questions: What is the third point in that talk; the fifth; fourth; second; first? See how the absurd connections form a mental image in your mind, thus allowing you to identify the points raised in the order they were listed?

Any group of ideas can be linked together in some such fashion, and the more ridiculous the sentence used for the linking, the easier it will be to recall.

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Photo credit: digitalart

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