How to use memorable words for a memorable presentation

March 14, 2018

When we wish to communicate our ideas, there is a myriad of tools we can call upon to ensure that people remember both the memorable phrase and its memorable speaker.


As an added bonus, these can improve your own memory retention. The confidence which comes from being able to remember your text helps reduce or even remove the fear of public speaking, thus allowing you to focus your efforts on your speech.

The first weapon in our mental armoury is involving all our senses:



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.”

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



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 sense of drama to your speech.

Symbolism related to sound can trigger powerful associations for audiences.  Mentioning the skirl of the bagpipes at a Remembrance Day parade may bring to mind the ‘devils in skirts’, the famous nickname given to the Highland regiments due to their ferocious fighting during WW1 by the German soldiers.



Invoking aromas can produce impressive reactions; take for example wine descriptions on a menu, ‘Dark Cherry’, ‘Peppery’, ‘Fruity’. These spark mental associations in the same way as perfumes being described as floral, musky or woody. Your ability to link language to senses invokes strong memories.



Think of any restaurant menu and the highly descriptive choice of words like crafted, fire-roasted or hand-dived, all of which are designed to activate your taste buds, enticing you to buy. It is no different to persuading your audience to believe in what you’re saying.



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?


Word Hacks

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.

Here’s an example – ‘Mocha is not my cup of tea’ is mildly amusing wordplay but when you learn it refers to a horse named Mocha and a nervous rider is making the remark, the meaning resonates further with the listener.


Here are 7 more top tips:
  1. People in Greek and Roman times placed great emphasis on oratory, developing a raft of techniques which are still in use today, in a range of remarkable settings. You might be surprised to learn that the last word of a sentence used to begin the next sentence, exemplified in Star Wars by Yoda in his, ‘Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering’ is in fact a rhetorical device called anadiplosis. It’s reasonably certain that any speaker would want to be thought of as possessing Yoda’s wisdom.


  1. 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.


  1. ‘Lock her up’, ‘Drain the swamp’, ‘Build the wall’ are all three-word combinations which rolls off the tongue easily and delivers a powerful message to the listener. These examples are all short punchy action statements. Donald Trump used these to devastating effect – who remembers the soundbites from Hilary Clinton’s election campaign?


  1. President Trump also used Paralipsis; drawing attention to a point by pretending to ignore it. ‘I refuse to say she ran that business into the ground.’ ‘I never attacked him for being a dummy.’ ‘I was going to say sorry but I won’t’.’


  1. Then we move on to Chiasmus, the transposition of word order in otherwise parallel phrases. There’s President John F Kennedy, who at his inauguration said, ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’.


  1. A highly effective communicator like Barack Obama also employed rhetorical skills, his weapon of choice in his famous New Hampshire speech was the repetitive trope or leitmotif We all remember the powerfully simple statement ‘Yes we can!’.


  1. Alliteration; using the same sound or letter at the start of a word – makes your speech both memorable and easy to memorise though you have to be careful not to give yourself a verbal hurdle.


A recent Economist article about eating rabbit contained two alliterations in quick succession; ‘Lapping up lapin’ which is reasonably simple to remember but went on to say,   ‘But the hutch-based solution that Mr Maduro has hatched has run into a hitch’. The second example would require practice and verbal dexterity from a confident speaker to deliver the full comic effect.

People want to remember your speech; give them the opportunity to do so by using language they don’t often hear. If you write and deliver a speech or presentation, or run a training session using the tips described, you will separate yourself from your peers in an area most people shy away from. Make the most of your words so they will be remembered by everyone who hears them.


About the author

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:  Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.







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