By 23rd Oct 2017 Nov 28th, 2017 News


It’s often asked – how to improve your memory. Are there any techniques to improve memory and recall? And what are the memory improvement strategies / techniques.

So, how can you improve your memory? Is it even possible?

Let’s get one thing straight, right from the start. There is no such thing as a bad memory; only an untrained one. But many people have a standard, natural memory, and have managed to convince themselves that they have a broken memory! They have actually managed to satisfy themselves that they have the memory of a goldfish.

Sadly, the more they repeat the mantra “I have a bad memory”, the more their brain believes them, and makes it so.

As a psychological illusionist, or Mind Magician, I utilise the power of memory techniques in my performances.  Shuffled packs of cards. Random lists of items. The entire contents of a magazine including photos, captions, and telephone numbers. And, yes, it looks as though I have a super-power memory. But, actually, my natural memory is no better than that of anybody else. Probably worse!

During these demonstrations, I simply use powerful, well-understood, but little-used memory techniques. Moreover, these techniques are nothing new. In fact, they’re ancient.

Some 2400 years ago a Greek poet, Simonedes of Ceos, was attending a function. He left the banquet hall for a few minutes, and while outside the roof collapsed, killing everyone inside. The bodies were crushed beyond recognition. However, by recalling where everybody had been seated in relation to his position, Simonedes was able to identify every single corpse.

That day, a memory system was born. The Loci System was adopted and refined by Greek and Roman orators who used the technique to speak for four hours, purely from memory, without once referring to notes.

The technique involves conjuring up a mental image of the rooms in a familiar building, or a frequently travelled route, then using the imagination to visit each location in turn within this ‘memory palace’. In each room an image of the item to later be recalled is deposited, and this is continued from room to room. The more ridiculous and ‘cartoonish’ the mental picture that is formed, the more firmly it’s held in the memory.

To bring the list to mind, one merely mentally re-visits each location in order, and ‘sees’ the object that was earlier placed there. It’s simply a case of using spatial memory of a familiar place to efficiently recall information.

Although such a technique sounds simple, it is unbelievably powerful, as demonstrated by the memory masters. These men and women who have mastered the system regularly astound with their ability to accurately recall vast amounts of mentally stored information. Yet they claim such feats are within the grasp of us all.

Ben Pidmore from the UK is a triple world memory champion, able to memorise 365 random numbers after only 5 minutes of study. Johannes Mallow from Germany can recite 370 randomly placed playing cards, having been exposed to them for only 10 minutes.

Like other memory masters, they maintain that their natural memory is no better than anybody else.

How do they do it? As I mentioned earlier: “There is no such thing as a poor memory; only an untrained one.”

I often have people tell me that they have an atrocious memory. “A memory like a sieve” is usually how they describe it. But they don’t have a bad memory – they’ve convinced themselves that they do.

I once had a chap tell me how awful his memory was. However, once I ascertained his passion – football in general, and a specific Edinburgh football team in particular – he was able to tell me who won what games against whom, from any fixture, who scored at what minute during the match, the names of the entire team… and a host of other information. So, he didn’t have a poor memory at all!

So, if you take just one thing away from this blog, let it be this: if you tell yourself you have a bad memory, you make it so.

And consider this: if you were to slowly flick through a set of 50 photographs, then I added one to the bundle and you went through the bundle again, you could easily identify the new one. You would recognise the fact that you hadn’t seen it before. Now, here’s the thing: in order to do that, you must have memorised the other 50 photos without even being aware of it!

I have demonstrated just how powerful people’s memories actually are, live on radio and TV – many times. During my 4-part BBC series School For Genius,  I introduced the system to schoolchildren. The youngsters were easily able to recite lists of 30 random objects, in order, forwards and backwards, after just 20 minutes. They even memorised, and recalled the name of every UK prime minister. And they boosted their exam results beyond all recognition.

On occasion, while performing, I tell the audience a story. I then have the pages from a magazine (which I have previously memorised) handed out. Page numbers are called out, and I accurately recite what is on that page, including all the details of the photo’s and pictures. Names. Dates. Book tiles, and so on.

And, no, I do not have a Super Power memory. I’m using a system. And to prove the point, the audience recite back the story they earlier learned and discover that they have memorised every article on one of the pages. If you can do it with one page, you can do it with ten. If you can do it with ten pages, you can do it with fifty…

Admittedly, the memory systems do not actually improve memory, but utilises the imagination and allows the practitioner to store and recall huge amount of information quickly and efficiently.

This basic system can be modified to recall names and faces, facts and figures, and even to speed-learn foreign languages. Which raises the question: why are memory techniques not being taught in schools, colleges and universities?

And yet, here, waiting to be unleashed is a proven principle so powerful that within a short period of time the average student could easily improve their memory tenfold. A valuable skill, indeed.

Quite simply, if you’re still struggling with inefficient repetition to hammer facts, figures and exam-critical information into your brain – you’re doing it the hard way.



Drew McAdam is an entertainer based in Central Scotland. He has performed his distinctive form of pure mind magic across the UK and from the United States to Russia. From Europe to Africa – and most places in-between. Though mainly performing in the corporate market, he often performs in theatre and on TV – and had his own series with BBC. While specialising in corporate after dinner astonishment and cabaret performances, he loves nothing more than taking his spellbinding demonstrations to private functions, parties and weddings.

If your requirement is for entertainment that is uniquely practical and practically unique… Get in touch.


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