How to remember a speech easily

... using the ancient story telling format 'Once upon a time'

How to remember a speech?

One of the greatest public speaking fears is that you'll stand in front of an audience scrabbling amongst the scraps of half remembered phrases unable to make a full sentence, let alone a paragraph from any of them.

The image of yourself as a competent, coherent speaker vanishes and is replaced by the nightmare of dumbstruck bumbling confusion. The audience waits, and waits some more.

One of the methods to bypass this pain is to use a pre-determined speech format to structure your information. It takes away the stress of having to remember your content as well as the order it comes in.

How to remember a speech using 'Once upon a time'

The safety net of the ancient story telling format 'Once upon a time' is simple to memorize and use. It's excellent for illustrative stories, working effectively because it follows the traditional 3-part pattern that has satisfied listeners ever since people began telling their tales. These are:

  1. an opening setting the scene and introducing the central character(s)
  2. the middle, body or development phase introducing an event or shift and the consequences of that
  3. and a conclusion.

The 7 steps, pegs or hooks to hang your story on are:

  1. Once upon a time ...
  2. And every day ...
  3. And every day ...
  4. And then one day ...
  5. And because of that ...
  6. And because of that ...
  7. And ever since then ...

Once you are familiar with the format you'll find it easy to adapt. You can expand each segment by adding details and/or drop the peg prompt phrase allowing your material to flow more naturally.

Let's look at a couple of examples of how to remember a speech using it.

As you read my sample speeches imagine that you are hearing them. If I wrote them again the core ideas would be the same but the words expressing them would probably change and that's OK. Variation, especially in public speaking, keeps a story spontaneous, allowing you to respond creatively to a particular audience. What's critical is recalling the 7 step progression through the 'once upon a time' format.


  1. Once upon a time there was a there was a young woman called Angela who was given the task of preparing a speech for her communications class.
  2. And every day she looked at the list of speech requirements. It was to be an informative speech, on a topic of her choice and between 5-7 minutes long.
  3. And every day she worried about it. She imagined herself not able to find a topic she liked - that if she finally did find something that her class would think it boring, that she'd forget what she wanted to say and people would laugh at her. Her worries became so large they squeezed everything else out her mind.
  4. And then one day while she checking the requirements for the 100th time, just to see if they really were what she thought they were, and that the date for the presentation really was in the following week, she had a startling thought. It was one so bright it blinded the worries, sending them scuttling into the far corner of her mind leaving center stage free. The thought was this:
    'What if choose a topic I've always been interested in and meaning to find out more about? If I'm interested in it, that will make it potentially interesting for my class mates.
  5. And because of that Angela had no time for for the worries anymore. She was too busy researching the development and growth of social media. Sure they sulked around a bit trying to get her take notice of them but they didn't really stand a chance.
  6. And because of that they became quite manageable - even useful. For example when Angela thought about how to remember a speech instead of panicking and seeing images of herself mute and shamefaced, she thought, I'll write up a set of cue cards and use a format to memorize the examples or stories I want to tell.
  7. And ever since then Angela is no longer paralyzed with public speaking fear.


  1. Once upon a time in the 1930's there was a young American socialite called Wallis Simpson.
  2. And every day she practiced the arts of sparkling conversation
  3. And every day she became more and more adept at intriguing the men she met
  4. And then one day she was introduced to the heir of the throne of England, Edward, Prince of Wales. He became besotted with her although the relationship was complicated by the fact she was still legally married to Ernest Simpson and had been married and divorced previously to that.
  5. And because of that the British monarchy, government and public were deeply shocked and could not accept the possibility of Wallis as their future Queen.
  6. And because of that when his father King George v died in 1936 Edward, instead of accepting his role as King, abdicated in favor of his brother, George.
    On 11 December 1936, Edward said in a radio broadcast, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.
  7. And ever since then that story is told as being the embodiment of true love. But is it?


For more examples of 'how to remember a speech' suggestions check these pages:




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"Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
Rudyard Kipling