Loci for Speech
I have a keen interest in Psychology and while studying ‘Human Memory’ I learnt about a 2000 years old method of loci (Latin for places) which made great speakers of Greeks and Romans. In that bygone era, (when paper was a luxury and Power Point was not dreamt of) it must have been pretty difficult for them to write down a long manuscript. And like today, reading out speeches was frowned upon, as a lacuna in one’s personality. So, to be acclaimed as a successful orator, one had to deliver it from her/his memory.
The method of loci, also known as the memory palace technique or the journey method, is probably the most versatile mnemonic system ever devised—I feel. In this method we use visualizations along with spatial memory, using familiar information from our environment, for quick recall of details. It has been used by memory performers on stage, students to pass exams, sales people to give a presentation, and by me to memorize the key pointers of a chapter or topic.
We sure get impressed by speakers who talk freely, without paper reading or referring to their notes often. Speaking from memory shows knowledge and confidence of a person on her/his topic. So here’s how this method works:
- Think of a place you know well, such as your own house.
- Visualize a series of locations in the place in logical order. For example, picture the path from the front door to the back of the house—front door, living room, to the right is the dining room, leading to the kitchen…
- Place each item that you want to remember at one of the locations.
- When you want to remember the items, simply visualize your house and go through it room by room in your mind. Each item that you associated with a specific location in your house springs to mind as you mentally make your way through your home.
And now when I look back, I realize that in the movie ‘Hannibal’, Dr. Lecter mentally walks through an elaborate memory palace to recall information and enhance sensory perceptions! I can vouch for it being fun, and a fantastic memorizing method for giving a great speech.