Each year people of many nations come together for the World Memory Championships, where participants sit and memorise for an allotted time. Once memorisation time finishes, a recall period is given allowing competitors to show what they remembered. The purpose of the competition is to see who has the best and most effective memory. It sounds extremely nerdy and only for really smart people. That’s what I first thought, too, before entering it myself.

When I did I was shocked to see everyday, average people like you and me doing truly extraordinary things with their brain. This is what the World Memory Championships and this book are all about—the ordinary person doing extraordinary things. What’s even more exciting is that the participants don’t just remember hundreds of digits or randomly shuffled decks of playing cards, they take away skills to assist them in their everyday life—skills such as fast memorisation, brain training for mental performance and improved concentration and focus. People ask me about entering the World Memory Championships because they understand that taking memory training to a competitive level enhances mental capabilities and massively improves everyday performance.

Entering a memory championship will help you with:

  • greater memory and recall • improve focus and concentration • self-discipline • accountability • accomplish goals • manage time better • complete tasks faster.

The World Memory Championships comprise ten distinct events held over three days. Entrants compete in all ten events for the chance to be crowned the World Memory Champion.

1. Names and faces. Fifteen minutes memorisation. Thirty minutes recall. Twelve faces are shown on one A3-sized sheet of paper with their first name and surname. You have to correctly memorise as many names as you can in fifteen minutes. Spell a name incorrectly and you lose a point!

2. Binary numbers. Thirty minutes memorisation. Sixty minutes recall. Remember as many 0s and 1s in rows of thirty as you can. A one-digit mistake reduces your score to 15 out of 30. Two or more incorrect digits mean you score 0.

3. One-hour numbers. Sixty minutes memorisation. Two hours recall. Numbers are presented in rows of forty digits. One digit wrong scores 20 out of 40. Two incorrect numbers mean you score 0.

4. Abstract images. Fifteen minutes memorisation. Thirty minutes recall. Five abstract images are displayed per row for a total of ten rows per page. For a correct row you get 5 points. A mistake means a deducted point.

5. Speed numbers. Five minutes memorisation. Fifteen minutes recall. Digits are presented in rows of forty. A one-digit mistake means you score 20. Two or more mistakes mean you score 0.

6. Historic/future dates. Five minutes memorisation. Fifteen minutes recall. Made-up dates are presented on multiple pages to be memorised. Points are given for correct date recall and deductions for mistakes made.

7. One-hour cards. Sixty minutes memorisation. Two hours recall. You can select as many decks of cards as you can memorise in one hour. Results can vary from no decks memorised up to a whopping thirty decks!

8. Random words. Fifteen minutes memorisation. Thirty minutes recall. Four hundred words are presented in rows of twenty. Get one word incorrect and you score 10 out of 20. Two or more incorrect words mean you score 0.

9. Spoken numbers. 200, 300 and 400 seconds. Up to twenty minutes recall. Digits of numbers are spoken by an official at one-second intervals for 200, 300 and 400 seconds. The person who has memorised the most consecutive numbers in a row from the very beginning wins the event.

10. Speed cards. Five minutes memorisation. Five minutes recall. This is the competition finale. The winner is whoever can memorise a deck of randomly shuffled cards within five minutes. Just keep in mind that the current record (at time of writing) stands at 20.44 seconds by Simon Reinhard of Germany.

So the memory competition is not just about who can memorise the most, but who can memorise the most, most effectively, and fastest. My experience as a mental athlete helps me enormously when teaching others how to memorise effectively, without the need to go back and repeat again and again.

It’s interesting, too, that the more I learned about memory, the more I got from speed reading—and vice versa. To help explain this let’s turn to the speed numbers event of the Memory Championships.

There are various ways of using the Major system to memorise a row of forty digits. (You can read how the Major System works here How To Memorize Numbers One way is to memorise two digits per location, which gives you twenty stories to remember per line of forty digits.

Location 1:          Location 2:         Location 3:          Location 4:
Front Door           Couch                TV                       Window
[17]                         [23]                    [97]                      [67]

The story for the above can be something like this:

A dog (17) bites the front door (Loc. 1). A gnome (23) jumps up and down on the couch (Loc. 2). A bike (97) is ridden into the TV (Loc. 3). Chocolate (67) is smothered all over the window (Loc. 4).

Now most people could remember these stories if they spent time imagining them. But with only a few seconds to memorise them, you may forget part of a story, which means forgetting the number. And as there are twenty short stories to remember in a row of forty digits, there is a high possibility of making one mistake, or even two, out of that twenty.

To reduce this risk my approach was to memorise four digits at one location. This means ten stories to remember for each forty digits.

Location 1:           Location 2:         Location 3:            Location 4:
Front Door            Couch                TV                        Window
[17 23]                     [97 67]               [21 01]                   [39 40]

The story for the above can now be something like this:

A dog (17) bites a gnome’s (23) bottom at the front door (Loc. 1). A bike (97) was painted with chocolate (67) on top of the couch (Loc. 2). A net (21) was wrapped around a seat (01) to smash through the TV (Loc. 3). A mop (39) was mopping away rice (40) surrounding the window (Loc. 4).

It’s a little longer but now there is more of a storyline instead of very short connections using two digits. A storyline is always more effective than a simple link because we can relate to it, because it has meaning. It is much more difficult to create meaning or a storyline for one particular image, and there is simply not enough time in the competition and not enough elements to drive the story further. While these techniques both accomplish the same task in remembering a row of forty digits, the four-digit memorisation method is a far more effective strategy.

In fact, it’s possible to memorise even more digits in a location. What if you were to try ten? This means making a story with five images linked to one another four times for each row.

So if you only have four stories to remember per row of forty digits, chances are you will remember them—especially if your story is imaginative.

So what does this tell us about speed reading and memory?

It tells us that they are essentially the same thing. The more stories we bunch together, the more effective the recall, which is proof of the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.

The things you need to become memory champion are the same as those needed to excel in any other field whether it’s competitive sports, business, education or entertainment. They include hard work, self-discipline, sound strategies, supportive, strong, positive people around you and a genuine passion and love for what you do.

(Excerpt from ‘How To Learn Almost Anything In 48 Hours’)