Word hacks to make your presentation memorable

When you give a presentation you want your words to stick in the minds of our audience.  Luckily there are tools we can use to ensure that our audience members remember both the important points being made and the speaker as well.  The same tools also help speakers remember what to say.

Memory is a multi-sensory-process so first and foremost we want to use words that will connect all the senses.

Smell, taste and touch

Invoking aromas can produce impressive reactions; take for example wine descriptions on a menu, ‘Fruity’, ‘Leathery’, floral. These spark mental associations.

Restaurant menus use descriptive choices of words: fire-roasted; crafted, traditional family recipe, all designed to make you salivate.

If you run your fingers over an object, what feeling do you experience? Can what you’re describing be thought of as smooth, rough or perhaps sharp? Your ability to link language to senses invokes strong memories and in turn makes your words memorable.

The eyes and ears

The more visual imagery contained in your speech or presentation, the more memorable it becomes. Take the following example: ‘‘A fox with glasses told his submarine to dive beneath the surface’’.

This is reasonably unusual but if you were to dial up the imagery, you might produce, ‘The reddish orange fox adjusted his sky-blue goggles and barked the order for his yellow submarine to dive beneath the salty, emerald sea’.

Sound can act both as a tool in its own right but also as a reinforcement. When you describe a ‘crashing cymbal’ or a ‘crack of thunder’ the audience is automatically given an image as well as adding a sound and a sense of drama to your speech.

Such use of vivid imagery and sound helps create more powerful memories for your audience.

The most potent weapon for a speaker wishing to deliver a notable speech are ‘word hacks’; seemingly simple word magic tricks that can be used to dazzle an audience.

People in Greek and Roman times placed great emphasis on oratory, developing a raft of techniques which we still employ. Using the last word of a sentence to begin the next sentence, exemplified in Star Wars by Yoda: ‘Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering’ is a rhetorical device called anadiplosis.

Alliteration; using the same sound or letter at the start of a word – makes your speech both memorable and easy to memorise. A recent article in the Economist about eating rabbit had: ‘Lapping up lapin’.

An effective, simple and easily remembered tip is to employ the Tricolon; epitomised most famously by Julius Caesar. Veni. Vidi.Vici.  I came. I saw.  I conquered.

A highly effective communicator like Barack Obama also employed rhetorical skills, his weapon of choice being Epistrophe – ending successive points with the same phrase – who could forget the simple yet strong statement ‘Yes we can!’?

President Trump also uses Paralipsis; Omission. ‘I refuse to say she ran that business into the ground.’ ‘I was going to say sorry but I won’t’.’  In business there can be occasions when is useful e.g. “This isn’t the time to dwell on just how long it took on competitor A to sort out their customer service issue” which emphasises indirectly how much better your organisation is.

A highly effective communicator like Barack Obama also employed rhetorical skills, his weapon of choice being Epistrophe – ending successive points with the same phrase – who could forget the simple, ringing statement ‘Yes we can!’?

If people give their time to listen to you it means they want to remember you and what you say.  The tools above will help you to create presentations that are easy for your audience to remember.  This is partly because you are using forms of language which are different from other speakers. Your words will stand out.  Use these tools and tips and discover just how memorable you can be!


Eddie Darroch is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org  Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.
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