Want to improve your memory? How about attending a memory tutorial given by an expert for free? That sounds pretty interesting doesn't it?
Well, on a related topics, getting people interested in participating in memory competitions isn't particularly easy, as I learned in 2012 when I helped run the first ever Canadian Memory Championship in Toronto. Despite my best efforts, only 4 people showed up as contestants that year with 2 of them being drawn from the audience on the day of the competition. To try and get more contestants we advertised free memory workshops in preparation for the competition. To my pleasant surprise, there was a good response to this offer which made me decide to keep it going to try and develop more memory competitors.
In Toronto, we have public libraries that offer free space for small meetings, (the 2013 photo above was taken there) and so we take advantage of this great and quiet space to have our meetings.
These days, it's no longer critical to increase interest in memory sports in Toronto because we have been having our championships in another city (Montreal) over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, I continue to offer this opportunity because, believe it or not, I feel it helps to improve my own memory.
Most people in the business of educating others about memory are first and foremost authors and publishers of materials put up for sale and this is how they make a living. After a while, I began to realize how your typical memory expert/author need to sell the benefits you can get from using memory techniques in order to sell their books and spread the message about mnemonics. But I also noted that having to pursue two objectives at the same time: selling the books and educating people was forcing some ugly compromises: In one hand, people already have expectations about how to learn and memorize and they also have a clear idea of how better memory skills would help them. Now when you are in the business of selling books, you will address the most popular motivations because if your book is presented as the solution that answers a common need, it has much better chances of being picked up by a potential buyer.
Now let's look quickly at the motivation of 4X US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis @climbformemory : he says his sweet grandma died of Alzheimer's disease and he wanted to do something to try and prevent this disease from happening to him. Now, can you imagine some book salesperson out there trying to sell you a book showing you a skill that may help you delay the onset of some form of dementia? No, this wouldn't sell very well because people are looking for a book that will show them a means to address their current difficulties or challenges and not those that may or may not occur many years down the line.
Most of the memory champions that I know of have the kind motivations that aren't going to motivate too many other people to reach their full potential or even become fluent with memory techniques and having the right motivation is key to achieving success in this field. Nelson Dellis is concerned about the overall health of his brain. Many others who excell in this field are motivated by the competitive aspect of memory sports. Again, that's not the kind of things most people care much about, and so when you sell a memory book and you try to connect it with the more common motivations, you may be successful in getting people to buy your book but the buyers will not have the right kind of motivation needed to succeed in that field ensuring that the book will not be of much use to them.
So, when we get together for memory workshops, I usually run things expecting that people will come bringing with them the wrong type of motivation and that they will attend no more than once or twice.
Occasionally, I get sincerely interested participants, and it's great to help them and see them grow. When people are already motivated to make an effort to learn the skill, that's when it gets interesting to help them because they often bring up the kind of difficulties that I know well but which would be pointless to try and explain to someone uninterested in the matter or someone who has not done any homework with memory techniques.
For instance, last meeting, a person named Azeez had worked on creating his mental images and did very well with his image selection and use of the Major system. When I explained to him how using a systematic approach to placing thing around in the loci would help him he realized instantly what I was talking about.
Also present was Matt, a new person. When I described some of my memory images, for instance 37 (M+G in the Major system) I told them I was using Megantic Mug, and asked them if they knew about the word Megantic. It is the name of a Canadian city made famous by a deadly derailment that killed more than 37 people. And my image for Megantic mug is a train with a giant mug carrying crude oil about to derail. Matt then asked if I chose this image for the emotional aspect in it. That had never crossed my mind but perhaps he is right and I should focus on these kind of emotionally loaded image. My approach is to use whatever works but it's great to hear feedback or the impressions from new people. It is food for thought.
Finally, we did a memory test, Random Words. That's one of my worst discipline but I managed to improve at it to the point where newcomers aren't likely to better me at it. Anyway, I was pleased to see that Matt was interested in participating because I know just how important a competitive spirit is.
In a nutshell, that's the sort of things that happen in the memory tutorials of the Canadian Memory Championship in Toronto. Please, contact me at [email protected] if you'd like to attend the workshop.