‘There’s no such thing as a bad memory, only a trained or untrained memory,” says Matthew Goerke, memory expert and personal development coach.
“Most people don’t realize this is a trainable skill, so they haven’t considered that a better memory would could help them personally and professionally,” Goerke says. Remembering names, giving presentations without notes, having product knowledge at your fingertips — these are just a few of Goerke’s examples.
He compares memory training to other skills we have learned and now take for granted. Most people know how to ride a bicycle, but initially they had to learn with the help of another person. Likewise, a good memory is a skill anyone can attain if shown how.
Goerke will lead an interactive memory training workshop and introduce his “Memory Switch Program,” at a workshop sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, September 28, 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Tickets: $25, $35 for non-members. To learn more or register, call 609-924-1776 or visit www.princetonchamber.org and click on the events tab.
Goerke likes to use interactive exercises to demonstrate that good memory is a trained ability. After leading workshop attendees through a module from his program, he hands them a list of 15 words and gives them a few minutes to memorize the items and then be ready to repeat them forward, backward, and out of order.
On whole, attendees succeed in meeting the task. And that’s when the light bulb goes off for most people. “That’s when people realize they can do it,” he says.
“The real problem people have isn’t remembering, it’s recalling something when you need it,” Goerke says. He gives the example of meeting someone in the supermarket and not remembering their name when exchanging greetings. But 10 minutes later, as you pack your grocery bags into the car, the name pops into your head.
“The majority of what you think you’re forgetting, on a daily basis, you never really tried to remember in the first place,” he says. “So an important part of committing new information to memory is making a decision to remember it and focusing on the topic.”
Goerke has videos on his website, www.memoryswitch.com, in which he offers tips for things like remembering the names of people you meet for the first time.
One way of staying focused on what you wish to remember, he says, involves speaking out loud. When a person tells you his name, the first thing to do is to make a conscious decision to remember it, and then repeat the name and use it in a sentence. For example, “Kate, it’s nice to meet you. Kate, I understand you love hats.”
Research shows that if you can use the name a couple times within the first few seconds, you’ll remember it, and you’ll be in the top 15 percent of the population. Goerke says you’ll remember the name because you focused on it. You heard it, you repeated it back, you used it in a sentence.
Speaking new information out loud stimulates verbal memory, he says. “Thinking something keeps it in your head. Speaking something puts it out in front of you. If you were to put your fingers alongside your throat and speak any word, you would feel your vocal chords vibrate. Those vibrations will hit your hard palate and directly stimulate your mind and your memory.”
Another technique for retrieving information is what Goerke calls a mental filing system, which he explains in his formal training. If you need a specific piece of information from a physical filing cabinet, you can get what you need because you know where to look, he explains.
But, if someone empties the cabinet, mixes everything up, and asks you to pull out a specific file, it would take you a while to find it because it wouldn’t be at your fingertips. “So what I teach is a technology for filing and processing information,” Goerke says.
Goerke, who has studied and worked in this field for 25 years, says before becoming a professional memory trainer, he didn’t know it was career option. Growing up in Maplewood where his father worked in manufacturing, he assumed his career choices were limited to what you might see in classified ads. After graduating from West Virginia University, he accepted a managerial position in the hospitality field. “But I wasn’t very happy with the work I was doing,” he says.
One day, while working at one of the properties he was managing, he met a person who was teaching a memory class. “The short story is, I complained about my memory, and they said they could help me.” Goerke replied that if they could teach him to improve his memory, he’d quit his job and do what they were doing. Goerke took the class and learned, first hand, that good memory is a trainable skill. “I’ve been involved in the field ever since,” he says.
Throughout his career, Goerke has worked with several well-known speakers, including Zig Zigler, Ed Forman, Vic Conant, and Tony Robbins. He has trained executives from several corporations, including AT&T, Prudential, Exxon, Wells Fargo, Merck Pharmaceutical, and Coldwell Banker, and government agencies such as the United States Postal Service and the Defense Department. He has also worked in educational settings, training students and teachers at various academic levels.
In his workshops, Goerke addresses the topics of how to remember long lists of items; quickly recall facts and technical data; historical dates, equations, English and foreign language vocabulary; scripture passages; and important personal dates and daily appointments.
He also looks to put to bed the idea that people naturally have more difficulty with their memories as they age. In his workshops he covers the facts and myths about memory and aging. For people ages 50 and above, he says he has quick ways to keep their memory sharp both for business and for their daily lives.
“The reality is, you have tons of information available to you at any second, how to tie your shoe, how to type, speak a language. You have a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips,” Goerke says.
“The main technology I teach in ‘Memory Switch’ is placement of information, because you virtually remember everything you see, hear, and think about. If it’s gone into your eye gate or ear gate it’s gone somewhere. As a business person, it’s important to keep the information you need at your fingertips. Improving your memory is something you can do right now. Everyone has the ability, but you’ve got to be shown how.”