Can You Tap Into The Power of Short Term Memory?

Our short term memory is like the check out counter at the store where we purchase the items we have picked up from the store shelves.

From this point, if we choose to take them, we put them in their appropriate storage place for later use, much like buying groceries.

Fresh Memories

Some memories are like vegetables and are more perishable. Others will last a life time because of their nature. Some if not used by their expiration date will also go bad.

Understanding the short term memory will help us better understand our memory and those we speak to as public speakers. To improve our memory and the ability of our audience to remember requires that we train our brain.

Memory is the ability to encode, store or retain, retrieve and even interpret information.

Did you know that memory is not a reflection of intelligence? Did you know that.

...there are different types of memory?

...we can improve our memory? don’t have to lose memory as you move into old age?

Most importantly, do you recognize that memory can affect how others view you.

Remembering Involves Three Stages

A brief overview will help you to see how to get the information into your short term memory, then the long term memory and finally into the ability to recall.

  • Encoding (receiving, processing and combining information)
  • Storage (the process of filing or storage of the processed information)
  • Recall (obtaining the information out of storage on demand for use)

Often times if the information has been received, processed and stored, the challenge is in recalling the information.

This can be accomplished via numerous means. It involves mentally managing how we listen. It also involves managing how we process the information.

Side note…There are other types of biological human memories such as muscle memory. This section will only be concerned with the cognitive function relating to memory needed for public speaking.

Three Types of Memory

There are three types.

  • Sensory
  • Short term
  • long term memory

Sensory memory is the sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Our dominant sense is the primary way we will receive process and store information.

If you have ever heard a person say, I see what you mean, I hear what you’re saying, I feel you don’t understand, or there’s something rotten in Denmark, you witnessed that person’s dominant sensory mode.

From the sensory mode it gets transferred (if we consciously or depending on training subconsciously) into the short term memory.

The short term memory has a mean duration time of about 20 seconds. Shorter or longer depending on how we have developed it. If you repeat the thought within the duration of the short term memory, you restart the clock.

You may have seen on TV where a police officer keeps repeating a license plate as they were running back to their vehicle. They are restarting the short term memory clock until they can transfer the information. With the excitement of numerous sensory inputs, this is an effective way to not forget important information.

Here is where most people fail to remember.

Consider a situation where someone introduces you to someone else. Within just a few minutes later you don’t remember their name. You heard it (sensory memory) but you failed to register it in the short term memory banks.

Next it goes into the long term memory. How do you get it from short to long term memory?

There are several ways. The least efficient is by rote. You just keep repeating something over and over again. Your audience will not be able to use rote to remember the main points of your talk with out missing other parts of the talk.

It is better if you use memory aids.

Memory Aids

Memory can be increased by using memory techniques. If you understand first your own memory you will better be able to give a speech that will meet the memory styles of your audience.

Here are a few of the types of memory aids. (More information will be added to these in time)




Loci or Locations







Memory Peg



mnemonic devices

iconic devices

Spaced repetition

These rely on neural connections already in the brain and merely adding something new to an existing file in our brain or creating a pattern that makes it easy transfer to the long term memory and then easier access the information.

In some cases they involve cross sensory memory which serves to increase the number of connections to the thought.

The most basic restarts the clock and repeats the thought so that the audience hears the point a few times only in different ways. It is one of the most effective for public speaking.

Incorporate these in your public speaking any you are improving your chances of the audience remembering what you said.

As I often talk about in the Mind we can reprogram it and tune it up. Read about how in this story. The Short Term Memory Website

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Lets Connect View Jonathan Steele RN Holistic Nurse's profile on LinkedIn
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