Memory Tips from Film & Dramatic Arts

Participants in my presentation skills workshops often ask me whether or not it’s a good idea to memorize a presentation. Most presentation coaches will say “No” — that you should know your topic well enough that you can easily talk about it.

I disagree.

Looking at the world of theater and film, we know that actors are required to memorize their lines. But do they sound as if they’re memorized? No, of course not. Once actors memorize their script, they focus on applying the nuances that make the words sound natural — pausing, applying emphasis, changing volume, and adding emotion. The same strategy can be applied to a business presentation. So let’s borrow some memory tips from film & dramatic arts at on how to quickly memorize a monologue.

Memory Tips from Film & Dramatic Arts


Understand the Content

Don’t think of the monologue as just words on a page – think of it as the story being told. When you have context for what’s being said, it’s easier for your brain to fill in the right gaps with the right words when memorizing. For example, look at these two sentences:

  • Cold the behind house the night barked in dog the
  • The dog behind the house barked in the cold night

They’re the same words, but which is easier to remember? Most likely, it’s the sentence that arranges the words so that they mean something to you.

Use Your Whole Brain

Learning a monologue by reading is the go-to method. This is great for visual learners; but unfortunately, not everyone is a visual learner. Many people learn far better by hearing, moving, or using their senses in any combination of ways. If you know what works best for you, take advantage of that knowledge to study the monologue in a way that fits your learning style. Try listening to a recorded version so that you can hear it, saying it aloud so you can experience it, or engaging muscle memory by writing the words down yourself. Some people even find that physically acting out each word or phrase with their body helps them learn the material. Give any of these methods a try – or better yet, try all of them. The more ways your brain can receive the same message, the better.

Focus on One Section at a Time

Though there are some who disagree, many people find that focusing on one section of the monologue at a time helps them memorize it more quickly. Start by breaking the monologue down into chunks, either using natural breaking points like paragraphs or simply dividing it into even sections.  Focus all of your attention on the first chunk until you have it committed to memory. Then move on to the next one, adding it to the first one after you have both memorized.

Read the entire article here.

Try these memory tips from film & dramatic arts and let us know how they work for you. After you’ve done the initial memorization of your presentation, don’t forget to add in the emphasis, pausing, and other nuances that will make your presentation sound natural.

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