We often speak of photography being all about capturing for posterity the big events, beautiful locations, and our closest loved ones and friends — and how we as an industry must do our best to help customers preserve their precious memories.
But while photography is great for memory (so much so that I am writing a book on that topic!) it’s not the only tool available to us — and in many ways, a powerful memory can boost your overall success in business, and elsewhere in life.
This week we present information and tips from Chester Santos, an actual recognized “Memory Champion” — yes, they have competitions!
Memory Exercises + Brain Fitness = Success
By Chester Santos
I am a memory expert: I help people to realize the benefits of an improved memory and sharper mind.
In order to win the USA Memory Championship in 2008, I practiced simple memory-building methods that can help anyone.
Wouldn’t it be helpful in your career to remember the names of everyone you meet, and to give a presentation or speech without notes? I teach that and much more.
My entertaining, interactive presentations and workshops provide my clients, from Fortune 500 companies to Harvard graduate students, with the tools to perform their functions at the highest level.
In any profession, you seem like much more of an expert in your field if you can recall important information rather than having to always look it up. If you have mastered your field and you are the expert, then you shouldn’t have to rely so much on reference — that makes you seem like a novice, not an expert. Another thing to consider: Whether or not there is a connection between memory and intelligence, there is definitely a perception: People with a razor sharp memory are perceived as more intelligent… and we always want to hire the more intelligent person.
My clients include businesses and organizations from various industries, including finance, technology, medicine and law. Many trial attorneys take my workshop because when they lose eye contact with the jury, they’ve lost the jury’s attention. You aren’t going to be as persuasive if you are always pausing to look through a mass of notes. Even the Harvard Graduate Council recognized the value of memory skills for students, and I conducted seminars for students from all thirteen of its graduate schools. “After listening to Chester, I realized the possibilities,” said Pukar Malla, President of the Harvard Graduate Council. “In a short span of time hundreds of students were using powerful memory techniques.”
I believe that memory techniques are especially important now in the technology age where people are less reliant upon human memory. The brain is very trainable. The more you have your brain do something over and over, the better it gets at doing it. The opposite is also true: The “use it or lose it” principle is definitely applicable to the brain. We all used to be able to remember the phone numbers of friends and family — Now no one knows anyone’s phone number. Things have gotten so bad that a lot of people don’t even remember their own phone numbers.
I engage my audiences and motivate them to memorize in the age of technology by demonstrating what is possible for all of us with just a little training: skills like remembering the names of one hundred people in the audience that I met right before the event, and memorizing a random list of numbers the audience created only a few seconds prior. I also can memorize an entire deck of cards in 90 seconds, or remember a sequence of 100 numbers in just five minutes (all challenges I performed in the USA Memory Championship). I never tell people that everyone is going to achieve my level, but what I do say is that everyone can dramatically improve their memory. My presentations are interactive, with audiences actively practicing memory exercises.
Most of the techniques I teach originated with the ancient Greeks. One of the core methods is known as the Method of Loci (“loci” meaning location). The Roman orator Cicero used this technique to give lengthy speeches from memory without any notes, and it was known then as the Roman Room method. This technique involves using a familiar venue such as your own home to create visual imagery that represents things you want to remember. In order to memorize a speech or presentation you choose several locations from your own home, and then link images that remind you in some way of each topic or section in your presentation. When you want to remember the topics you just take a mental walk through your residence, and “see” the images that you placed at the different locations.
These techniques magnify anyone’s memory many times over because you are using more areas of your brain. Scientific studies support that notion: When I appeared in an October 2012 PBS Nova ScienceNow segment, “How Smart Can We Get?” I trained the host of the show, David Pogue, how to use the Method of Loci memory technique. Pogue memorized 40 words in approximately ten minutes by using images connected to his own living room. In order to remember some of the words, I told Pogue to imagine that on top of this piano there is a monkey dancing, and this monkey picks up a giant iron. I later told Pogue that we tend to remember things more if there is something interesting actually happening, rather than just a stagnant object. Neuroscientist Dr. John Golfinos of New York University Langone Medical Center explained during the segment that memory champions can remember large amounts of information with these techniques because they are using the parts of the brain that process language as well as images, so employing other parts of the brain makes their memories stronger.
Since I know the importance of scientific support for my memory training, I offer programs along with Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Gazzaley explains the science of memory, and then I discuss the practical benefits of memory training in any career.
Clearly, memory techniques can help boost productivity for anyone in their business or personal life, and recently, I discovered that corporations might also want to get into the memory game. I brought the first-ever US corporate team to the USA Memory Championships. I do one-on-one memory coaching for Mike Faith, the CEO of Headsets.com, and he saw the benefit of memory training in his career. Faith believed in the value of memory training so much that he asked me to train his employees to compete in the USA Memory Championship this year. I started a trend: other corporations have already entered for next year.
Memory is fundamental to learning, so memory training and brain fitness are invaluable tools in the workplace — and who knows where the next corporate memory champion will come from? But it’s not all about competing against others… When you can improve your personal memory you are a winner in any arena. Just follow these basic and specific memory training tips to jump-start your memory.
Basic Memory Tips
1. Attach vivid visual images to information that you want to remember.
2. Establish a connection between new information and a familiar location, such as your home or office. Use this for remembering lists, presentations and speech topics.
3. Involve additional senses, including hearing, taste, touch and smell to assist in committing facts to memory. This aids in the process of encoding information into your brain.
4. Practice relying upon your memory and not technology, to recall telephone numbers and other information. This will help to re-program your brain to become more accustomed to remembering.
How to Remember Names
Everyone likes to hear his or her name, and it’s a great way to get ahead in business. Try these techniques and names will be more than just on the tip of your tongue:
Associate an image with the name of someone that you want to remember. So if someone has the name Jill, imagine a hill and someone jumping up the hill. Try linking another sensory cue to names such as sense of smell or hearing. When you meet someone, notice the scent they are wearing or the tone of their voice. If anything stands out, link it with the name. For example, if a woman is wearing a sweet-smelling perfume, link the word sweet with the name, “Sweet Sue.” If someone has a nasal voice use that with the name, “Nosey Jim.”
How to Remember a List
Imagine that there is a grocery list that you need to remember. Some of the items are milk, eggs and cereal. The best way to remember these items is to visualize them, but in an unusual way. For instance, think of a carton of the milk the size of a building, with eggs flying out of the windows. When the eggs splatter on the ground, cereal pours out of them. In order to cement the list in your mind, create a story surrounding the images and repeat it to yourself several times.
How to Memorize a Speech or Presentation
In order to memorize a speech or presentation you can use the same techniques for remembering a list: Connect an image with each topic or point in your material. For a particularly long speech or presentation, the Method of Loci works well. Just select a familiar location such as your home or office, and attach visual spots in that location to each topic. Picture your living room and take a walk around it in your mind, linking each piece of furniture, art and other objects to the points you want to make. It’s best to use vivid imagery when making these connections so that you have the best chance of remembering the information.
For more information on Chester Santos’ presentations and training go to www.InternationalManofMemory.com.