Memory Palaces and how to use them to look like a star presenter

Always wanted to be able to do a presentation without the need for slides? Well, here’s your chance to learn how to use memory palaces to flawlessly remember every bullet in your storyline by heart without breaking a sweat.

You may have heard about memory palaces also known as mind palaces and the method of loci (loci means places in Latin). Memory palaces is a widespread technique at the world championships of memory. For example this technique (with a bit of practice, of course) has led to accomplishments such as successfully remembering 162 random digits and 39 random words in 5 minutes each. These are just a couple of examples of records held by a Norwegian memory master Oddbjørn By.

“So what? I can’t use that for anything useful in my daily life!” you might say. However, the technique is easily applicable to school and work situations. A student can use it during exams revision for exams where aids are not allowed to remember all the important things. It’s always nice knowing the details in chronological order at an oral exam. Or imagine a speaker doing a presentation completely liberated from looking at the slides, keeping eye contact and avoiding turning the back to the audience. This is a person that can better catch the attention of listeners throughout the session.

Personally, I have a pretty bad short term memory, so I have frequently used memory palaces to ensure I could remember all the things I needed to remember. If I, a hopeless case, can learn it anyone can.

So how does it work?
Think of a place you know very well. It can be your apartment, your parents’ house or the house of your childhood friend where you used to come all the time. The point is that you need to be very familiar with it. Next, imagine walking a route through that place and mentally mark off spots along the way, e.g. 1) outside the front door, 2) in the hall, 3) in the kitchen etc. Try to get at least 10 spots. It should be a logical route so you can remember it well. SO, no jumps from one end to another.

That’s the palace, now you need to “furnish” it. You place a mental image you can associate with whatever you need to remember at each of the spots. Say you would like to remember the worst dictators the world has ever seen. Then you would for example start by placing a small bottle of Hugo Boss cologne to represent Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. At your next spot, in the hall, you place a large mug right there on the floor, to represent President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. And you continue like that until you have all the dictators you need to remember.

When you have furnished your palace, go through it a couple of times by speaking it out loud. State the location, the mental image, and what you need to remember. This will help you store the information better and make it easier to recall it later. It significantly helps if you make the mental images move around and do surprising stuff to make them more memorable. Say, taking the cologne and accidentally spraying it in your eyes and having the mug tip over with coffee spilling all over the floor.

I was amazed the first time I tried it. Within 15 minutes I was able to remember the 10 largest countries in the world in chronological order. I could even walk through it backwards by taking the journey through my memory palace the other way around.

After that I couldn’t resist trying it out on others and see if they were able to do the same thing with minimal instructions. I tried it on my mom – it worked. I tried it on random people at dinner parties and they were also able to remember all the countries within a few minutes, so it’s a very effective and easy to learn tool.

So prepare to never forget anything important ever again using your own memory palaces. Go ahead try it out right away. Try memorising the ten largest countries in the world by constructing a memory palace in your childhood home. It’ll be fun!

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