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. 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; twice 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 investigative journalism. 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”?
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...