Wednesday, December 27, 2006
MEMORY SYSTEM FOR SPEECHES, JOKES,NARRATIVES, DRAMATIC PARTS AND POEMS, ARTICLES
The problems and embarrassments with the items listed in thetitle of this chapter are almost endless!The speech maker, terrified that he will make a blunder infront of his audience, usually reverts to reading word-for-word from a prepared text, the result of which is inevitably amonotonous and de-personalised presentation. The slightlymore courageous speech-maker will often commit his speechto memory, falling into the trap of scrambling through it asfast as possible in order to get to the end before he forgetssomething! In most cases he does forget something and themost awkward silences ensue as he gropes for the lostthread.Similar, although not so important, situations arise in thetelling of jokes. These are not so much embarrassing to thestory teller as annoying to the person to whom the joke is beingtold. How familiar is the situation in which, after ages ofbuildup, the story teller suddenly looks at you with a slack jaw andthe exclamation 'Damn! I've forgotten the punch line, butanyway it was a really funny story'.Dramatic parts present a different problem in that they areusually to be memorised by actors who have continual practisesessions with the same material. Their task is nevertheless stilldifficult, and each member of the group must make sure thathis familiarity with the material is at least on a par with that ofthe other members. In more lengthy and difficult works,soliloquies and poems are among the items that have to beremembered, and the task becomes even more difficult.Remembering articles is often necessary in an academic orbusiness situation, embarrassment usually arising during examtime when the student 'knowsthatheknows'but justcan'tgettheinformation off the tip of his tongue or his mind; and in thebusiness situation where one is asked to discuss a report thateveryone else has read, and either goes completely blank orcannot recall a major point.These are the problems. How can they be solved? Un-fortunately there is no simple system such as the Link and Pegsystems discussed previously, but there are methods andtechniques that make the remembering ofthis kind of materialmuch easier. As the techniques vary slightly in different cases,I shall consider each individually.SpeechesIfyou wish to make a good speech one of the cardinal rulesis never to memorise it word for word. Another is never to readit.1. Generally research the topic about which you are goingto speak, making recordings ofideas, quotations and referenceswhich you think" might prove relevant.2. Having completed your basic research sit down and planout the basic structure of your presentation. Do not start towrite your speech before you have completed your basicdesign. I have known people who have written the 'same'speech seven times before arriving at their final draft. If theyhad organised themselves a little more adequately to beginwith, weeks could have been saved!3. With your basic structure in front ofyou fill in the detailsin note form so that you complete an outline which needs onlygrammatical and sentence structure changes to become acoherent presentation.4. Practise making your speech from this completed out-line! You will find that, having completed the research andhaving thought about the structure of the material, you willalready have nearly memorised your speech! Initially, ofcourse, there will be points at which you hesitate, but with alittle practice you will find that not only do you know yourspeech, you also know what you are talking about !This point is especially important, for it means that whenyou finally do speak to your audience you need have no fear offorgetting the word-order or what you are presenting. Yousimply say what you have to say, using the appropriate voca-bulary and not a rigid succession of sentence structures. Inother words, you become a creative rather than a static speaker.This is Always preferably.5. As a precautionary step it is advisable to jot down on asmall card, or to remember on one of your smaller memorysystems, the key words in the basic outline ofyour speech. Thisgreatly reduces the possibility of forgetting.The only problem you may consider still unsolved is thatof not being able, immediately, to find the right word at theright time. Don't worry about this. When the audience sensesthat a speaker knows what he is talking about, an effectivepause makes it obvious that he is creating on the platform.This adds rather than subtracts from the enjoyment of listen-ing, for it makes the presentation less formal and morespontaneous.Jokes and NarrativesJokes and narratives are far easier to deal with than arespeeches, because most of the creative work has already beendone for you! The problem is nevertheless a two-fold one:first, you must remember the joke or narrative to begin with,and second, you must remember its details.The first ofthese problems is easily solved by using a sectionof the major system as a permanent library for the stories youwish to file. I need go into this point no further, as it is simplya matter ofselecting a key word and associating it with the keyword of the System.The second problem is slightly more difficult to overcome,and involves once again our use ofthe link system. Let us take,for example, the joke about the man who went to the puband bought a pint of beer. Having bought this beer, he sud-denly realised he had to make a telephone call, but knew thatsome of the 'characters' in the bar might well swipe his pintbefore he returned. In order to prevent this he wrote on hisglass 'I am the World's Karate Champion.' and went tomake his telephone call, securely thinking that his beer wassafe.When he returned he saw immediately that his glass wasempty and noticed more scribbling underneath his own. Itread 'I am the World's fastest runner—thanks!'To remember this joke we consciously select key words fromit, joining them into the basic narrative.All we need from this full paragraph of narration are thewords 'pint', 'phone', 'write', 'karate champion', and 'runner'.With these few words, which can be linked in whatever waywe please, the whole sequence and essence of the joke willreturn immediately, and those horrible silences as one runs outof steam in the middle of a story need never recur!ArticlesArticles may need to be remembered on a very short-termbasis or on a long-term basis, and the systems for rememberingeach are different.Ifyou have to attend a meeting or to make a briefresume ofan article you have only recently read, you can remember italmost totally, and at the same time can astound your listenersby remembering the pages you are referring to! The method issimple: take one,two or three ideas from each page ofthe articleand slot them on to one of your peg memory systems. Ifthere isonly ono idea per page, you will know that when you are downto memory word 5 in your basic system, you are referring tothe 5th page, whereas if there are two ideas per page and youare at memory word 5 you will know you are the top of page 3!When an article has to be remembered over a longer periodof time, we once again revert to the link system, taking keywords from the article and linking them in such a way as tomake them most memorable. This method of rememberingwill enable you not only to recall the sequence of the eventsand ideas but also to retain a more adequate general impressionofwhat the article was about. The act ofconsciously attemptingto remember is itselfa part oflearning.Dramatic Parts and PoemsThe last section of this chapter deals with those two itemsthat have been in the past, and are still unfortunately today,the bane of the schoolchild.The method usually employed (and recommended) is toread a line over and over again, 'get it'; read the next line,'get it'; join the two together; 'get them'; read the next lineand so on ad nausum until the first lines have been forgotten!A system recommended and used successfully by well-known actors and actresses is almost the reverse. In this systemthe material to be remembered is read and re-read quickly butwith understanding over a period offour days, approximately 5times a day. In this manner the reader becomes far morefamiliar with the material than he realises and at the end of his20th reading tries to recall, without looking at the text, thematerial to be remembered. Almost withoutfail the mind willhave absorbed 90% or more totally, and remembering willhave been a natural outgrowth of reading!As I have said, this system has been found far more success-ful than the line-by-line repeating system, but even it can beimproved considerably.Once again the link system and key words come into play.If the material to be remembered is poetry, a few major keywords will help the mind to 'fill in' the remaining words whichwill almost automatically fall into place between the key words.If the material to be remembered is part of a script, onceagain key words and linking images can prove essential. Thebasic content ofa long speech can be strung together with ease,and the cues from speaker to speaker can also be handled farmore effectively. It is these cues that often cause chaos on thestage because ofthe silences and breaks in continuity that mayoccur when one performer forgets his last word or anotherforgets his first. Ifthese last words (or even actions) are linkedin the way that we link objects in our memory system, breaksand confusion can be completely avoided.In summary, the remembering of speeches, narratives,jokes, articles, dramatic parts and poems involves a numberof slightly differing techniques. In all cases, however, the useof some form of link, key words, and repetition is necessary.