How to Make a Speech Memorable

Do you know how to ensure someone remembers your speech?

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #69

What do you remember about the last speech you heard? If you’re like most people, probably not much. In this article we’ll cover how to make your speeches more memorable.

How to Make a Speech Memorable

Just about two weeks ago I attended the 2009 Grand Slam in Philadelphia. This is a contest where participants are invited to tell a five-minute true story. As soon as I heard Ky Mettler's story, I turned to my husband and said, "Oh, she's the winner, for sure."

At the time, I could have listed dozens of things she did right. Dozens of things that made her story stand-out. But what about today, almost two weeks later; what do I remember about her speech? Can I still list dozens of things that she did right? (That is without reviewing her video on YouTube).

She was good, but was she memorable?

Turns out, I can remember a few things. So, I thought it would be useful to review what I remember from her speech as a way of explaining how to make a speech memorable.

Think back to the most recent presentation you attended; think back to ANY presentation you have attended. What do you remember? Really, think about it; what do you remember? Not much, right? It’s likely that you only remember one or two (or at most three) things the speaker talked about (and that’s if it was a good speaker)!

Forgetting Is Normal

Psychologists talk about fading theory. They say the trace or mark that a memory etches into your brain is like a path you make in the woods when you continually walk along the same route. If you don’t take that same path, it eventually becomes overgrown--until it disappears.

A famous study on forgetting textbook materials compared the percentage of material remembered after different intervals of time. The results were interesting:

  • After 1 day 54% was remembered.

  • After 7 days 35% was remembered.

  • After 14 days 21% was remembered.

  • After 21 days 18% was remembered.

  • After 28 days 19% was remembered.

  • After 63 days, about two months, only 17% was remembered.

Remembering what you hear in lectures is even more difficult to recall because you are not able to slow down, pause, reflect, or to reread unless you take excellent notes! In a study on recall after listening to a seminar, students forgot more than 90% of the points from the lecture after 14 days!


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.