Speaking Ideas: The 90 Word Secret To Remembering Your Speech Outline

“The average man does not use above ten percent of his actual inherited capacity for memory. He wastes the ninety per cent by violating the natural laws of remembering.” – Carl Seashore

Nothing can be more devastating than finding out in the middle of your delivery that you cannot recall one or more key points you wish to make to pass your message across successfully.

Now, there is probably no ability more crucial to your success as a speaker, than your capacity for remembering i.e. your memory. Among other things, your memory helps you to remember the order of the points in your talk or speech i.e. your speech outline.

It therefore goes without saying that in today’s world, with the seemingly increased pressures of modern day living, developing a RELIABLE system for improving and making optimal use of your memory, can greatly influence the outcome of every single speaking outing you have.

For adults in today’s fast paced and fast changing technology driven world, the need to get much done in less time is as pressing as ever.

One area where this has become glaring is our ability to remember things. Because we have so much to do in the same 24 hours of each day, many people now struggle to remember stuff.

The result is that many people now depend on various tools and devices to enhance their ability to cope with the heightened demands of meeting the daily challenges of modern day living.

You know them… BlackBerries, iPads, computers of all kinds and the Internet itself (e.g. web based birthday/anniversary reminder services).

But if truth be told, human beings, MAN, still has in him the capacity to achieve much higher levels of productivity than he currently does. Unfortunately, most of us do not know. Indeed, some think it’s impossible to do more than they currently do, without getting help from others. They do not know what they are truly capable of.

Your Speaking Success Depends On Having A Speech Outline & A Good Memory

The foregoing quote by Carl Seashore is very instructive – for many people in today’s world – especially if they aspire to become successful speakers. After thinking up and getting your thoughts down on paper, you will have blended them with ideas and insights from research reading you have done, to produce a speech outline that enables you do justice to the subject or topic.

But since it would be in bad taste to read out your speech from paper, the next task after completing your outline, will be for you to develop a formula or system for remembering your speech outline.

The Laws of Remembering

It has been established that IMPRESSION, REPETITION and ASSOCIATION are the THREE natural laws of remembering, upon which the “memory system” is founded. So, to understand how to improve one’s memory, it becomes imperative that one understand how to avoid violating each of these laws.


You need to form the habit of concentrating your attention intensely on what you wish to remember, so as to achieve a clear, and long lasting impression of it in your mind. Note the use of the word “habit” here. Historical accounts tell us that Theodore Roosevelt’s trained himself to be able to concentrate on the task at hand even when in adverse environments e.g. where noise/distractions existed.

Your ability to focus in this manner on what you want to remember will help you imprint it in your memory. One example drawn from Dale Carnegie’s writing: Test your mastery of this law by seeing how well you are able to recall the names of people you are introduced to, a while afterwards.


We use repetition a lot because most of what we have to learn is via rote – blind memorisation. We recite poems, until we know them by heart. It should be noted here that the repetition referred to is NOT that which turns the learner or user into what Robert Kiyosaki has called “mindless parrots.” It is advised that reasonable intervals are allowed between the repetitions.

In relation to your speech outline, you can use repetition to improve your ability to remember it. Reading it out loud – the way Abraham Lincoln did, and the way students of Islam studying the Koran did – is a good way to achieve this. After you have done it a while, you’ll notice a marked improvement in your ability to recall the relevant points in your outline, making it easier to strong together the various parts of your speech in the right order, so that your outing goes as planned.


The famed psychologist, Prof. William James, described this third law as “the indispensable element in remembering”. Our minds work better when given “cues”. Pictures are perfect vehicles for communicating such cues, and that’s why they can be successfully used to improve our ability to recall anything from memory.

Mark Twain, reportedly revealed – in a magazine interview – that he used pictures – which he formed by himself – to remember the order of occurrence of items he wished to remember. The pictures you use, for this concept to work, must have some association with the thing you wish to recall. One example: To remember a person’s name e.g. Mr. Tangahar who sells fruits, you could think up the picture of “Tangerine”.

For your speech, remembering the outline can be made easier by what Dale Carnegie called a “nonsense sentence”.

There’s one that was widely used when I was in school many years ago, to remember the letters of the alphabet: “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog”. It’s not totally nonsensical, but it is a bit trivial. For those who used it however, it offered a quick way to quickly recall all the 24 letters of the alphabet – especially under tense situations.

Here’s a humorous twist to this concept:

In Nigeria, when our power company was still called National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), people chose to call it “Never Expect Power Always” to reflect our perception of its ability to deliver reliable power supply. When it changed name to “Power Holding Company of Nigeria”(PHCN), people responded by breaking down the NEW acronym to mean “Please Hold Candle in Nigeria”!

To use this technique, a speaker would put words in a nonsense sentence, in the order in which the idea or point each word represents, occurs in the speech itself.

To paraphrase Dale Carnegie, any group of ideas can be linked together using words in a nonsense sentence that may tend to be even easier to recall, because it sounds ridiculous. So, please use it.

Summary: The 90 Word Secret To Remembering, Derives From The 3 Natural Laws

Here it is – in form of advice given by a competent authority on the subject:

“We are visual minded. Eye impressions stick. We can often remember a man’s face, even though we cannot recall his name. The nerves that lead from the eye to the brain are twenty-five (25) times as large ad those leading from the ear to the brain. The Chinese have a proverb that says “one time seeing is worth a thousand times hearing”. Write down the name, the telephone number, the speech outline you want to remember. Look at it. Close your eyes. Visualise it in flaming letters of fire.” – Dale Carnegie

And that’s the secret. You will notice that it effectively captures the requirements of the three natural laws of remembering, which is why it provides a fool proof formula that you can readily put to use for yourself – with some study and effort of course.

Final Words

The ideas provided here are based on a review of Dale Carnegie’s notes on “The Improvement of Memory” in his book titled “How To Wind Friends & Influence People By Public Speaking”.

Get yourself a copy of the book and study these concepts in more detail, then put them to use, to improve your memory and become a more effective speaker today!

NB: This article was first published online on 7th December 2011 via www.spontaneousdevelopment.com and Ezinearticles.com


[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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