Technique Thursday: Memory Palace

About four years ago, colleague of mine suggested that I preach without notes. “You barely look at the ones you have with you,” she said.

So I took the leap. It was terrifying and exhilarating, at the same time. I haven’t looked back sense then.

I have a bare bones outline with me in case our technology goes down mid-sermon because I still rely on our projection screen for long quotations.

This change in sermon delivery changed my sermon prep time, too. I came across a book that helped me with memorization: Moonwalking with Einstein. The book talks about the wonder of the human mind and an ancient memorization technique called loci, or “memory palace.”

How it works

The author, Joshua Foer, suggests that one envision their childhood home as an outline guide for the talk/presentation that they want to memorize. Then, simply structure the talk with memorable details in each of the rooms of the household. Foer believes that, with some dedication, one can remember a talk years later if deep memory work is conducted. If we can remember the house, we can remember the things we “put” in each room.

The above picture is the basic floor plan of my childhood home in Dublin, OH. Each week, I put the critical points of my sermon in each of the rooms, in order, creating a memory place for each talk, each week. I start with the mailbox (far left) and work into the house and into each room. Delivering the sermon, then, is simply strolling through my childhood home and narrating what’s in the room.


Have a talk coming up soon? Give it a shot. Tell me what you think.


Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

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