Sarah Palin, a Red Bull and Casper the friendly ghost.

OK I know it’s a worn out cliché that most people rank the fear of public speaking as their #1 fear above even death. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, at a funeral, most people would rather be lying in the casket than giving the eulogy.

Well for most people the fear is real and it comes down to a few basic reasons, the fear of failure, being judged, humiliated and most of all….forgetting what to say….which brings me to Sarah Palin.

You may recall a few months back a post speech Q & A in Nashville where she was asked what top three things a Republican majority in Congress should focus on. Already knowing that she would be asked this question, she was not confident that she could remember these three things: Energy, Tax Cuts and Raise American spirits….so what did she do? You may remember….she wrote them on her hand!

Needless to say it was picked up on camera, it got posted on YouTube, it went viral and she was lambasted by the news media and of course the Democrats and her credibility was brought into question, yet again, she really didn’t need this.

As a memory consultant I couldn’t help but feel for her, for a very basic memory system called The Chain or Link and less than 60 seconds of her time could have avoided this embarrassment.

Simply put, the Chain is a memory system which is used for recalling sequential information, like lists, equations and formulas, and best of all, speeches and presentations, which is no more than a sequence of thoughts and ideas.

The key to the Chain is to link images or thoughts together in a crazy ridiculous nonsensical fashion. The crazier the images, the quicker the recall. Images or pictures are easier to recall than words, (a picture is worth a thousand words). Crazy, odd and strange images are easier still. The images represent what you wish to remember, in Sarah’s case, just three items: Energy, Tax Cuts and Raising American Spirits.

Item 1. Energy.

All Sarah needed to do was think of an image which represents energy, the first image that comes to mind is usually the strongest. It could be an Energy Drink or Energy Bar, a Wind Turbine, or a Solar Panel, anything which engages the right, creative side of the brain, this would be her first image. To this she needed to link in a strange way an image which represented the second item, which was:

Tax Cuts.

Now the beauty with memory systems is that you can literally visualize an image which simply sounds like the item to be remembered, and it will do just fine. (It is a common memory ‘trick’ for recalling people’s names).

So for tax cuts all she needed to do was visualize Thumb Tacks. Tacks sound identical to Tax. Tax is hard to visualize, ‘Tacks’ on the other hand (there’s a joke there somewhere) is easy to visualize. So when the right side of the brain, the creative side, recalls the image of ‘Tacks’, the left side, the logical side, will immediately convert it to Tax.

Now she simply had to link together, let’s say a can of Red Bull for Energy and ‘huge’ Thumb Tacks for Tax Cuts. Regular size thumb tacks are simply not as memorable as say thumb tacks whose heads are the size of your palm, that is memorable! She needed to imagine taking two gigantic thumb tacks, and piercing the can of Red Bull. See this image yourself; see yourself piercing the can with these two gigantic Tacks. Feel the cold can in your hand; hear the sound of the buckling aluminum.

Now she needed to link the third and final item:

Raising American Spirits.

For this she could have used Casper the friendly ghost for spirit. Now we continue the story. After she had pierced the can she needed to imagine taking out one of the Tacks, as she does so Casper (spirit) floats out from the hole she created and slowly rises (raising) to the ceiling. You know it’s not about raising Outer Mongolian spirits, but if you really need to remember raising American spirits, then see Casper waving a US flag. Raising American Spirits!

Red Bull pierced by huge thumb Tacks, remove a tack and Casper squeezes out the hole and rises to the ceiling while waving a US flag.

Three simple images, 60 seconds……..saved credibility!

Ironically in the speech she gave before the Q & A she was criticizing President Obama for using a teleprompter. All speeches can be remembered using the Chain. Obviously presenters must have a handle on the information they wish to present, they need to know their material, they just need to feel confident they can present it in the correct order and not forget any key points; the Chain allows this, whether you have three points or thirty three points.

So, Barack, Sarah, do away with the teleprompter and the ‘handwritten’ notes….and give me a call; just see a large telephone ‘Bob’bing around in a pool with a ‘Gray’ shark!


Bob Gray is an international keynote and memory workshop presenter. A Guinness World Record Holder, Certified Speaking Professional and Canadian Speaker Hall of Fame inductee.

Motivational Keynote Speaker


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