How did Ed Miliband remember all 6,000 words of his conference speech without notes or a teleprompter?
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 03 October 2012
An amazing feat of memory is one of the accolades given to Ed Milliband for his 6,000 words speech today which he delivered without notes or a teleprompter. So how did he do it?
Shakespearian actors can remember large tracts of the Bard word by word, line by line, but Mr Milliband probably hadn’t memorised his speech in the same way as an actor who has to remember his part.
It is more likely that he formulated or visualised an overall structure for his speech that he proceeded to fill in as he went along, supplemented by certain key phrases that he did commit to memory, according to Professor Alan Baddeley, a psychologist at York University.
“My first thoughts are that he almost certainly didn’t memorise 6,000 words. If he were to give this speech again it is very likely that he would use different words,” Professor Baddeley said.
“I give lectures on different subjects and they are never the same. You can do this kind of thing if you are sure of what it is you want to say. If his speech had included a long list of facts, though, he would probably have had to use notes,” he said.
It is possible that Mr Milliband used mnemonic devices to aid his memory, where a memorised saying, acronym, visual scene or even tune is used to recoil a more complex sequence of information. The colours of the rainbow, for instance, are more easily remembered by the mnemonic: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.
In Roman times, politicians or generals used the mnemonic device of visualising different parts of a building to memorise long speeches. Medieval bards did something similar before the days when stories, poems and songs were written down.
However, in Mr Milliband’s case, it is more likely that he had familiarised himself thoroughly with his subject matter, and practised what it was he wanted to say about it in terms of the meaning rather than the verbatim repetition of whole sentences.
“My guess is that he knows about what he wanted to say. He had talked about it and thought about it at lot,” Professor Baddeley said.
However there were certain phrases he must have memorised and practised repeatedly. How else to explain the fluency of his description of the Tories as an “incompetent, hopeless, out-of-touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower”?
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...