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How to use the 20-Item Memory Technique

Not SImply an Amazing Party Trick
20 Nov 2014

How to use the 20-Item Memory Technique

So, you’ve learned the 20-Item Memory Technique (learn here) and can easily use it even when multitasking. You can recall anything you want by its name or its number in a list. You have essentially installed a powerful, instantly accessible database in your mind.

Here are a few tips for making the images you store in your memory palace more memorable:

  • Exaggerate size, shape, texture, smell, behaviors etc. of characters and key components.
  • Incorporate numbers into images of characters or items, like numbers on a football jersey or in a twisted greeting card.
  • When using people you know in your images, have them acting in ways that are completely unlike them, to the point of being humorous, irritating, or even disgusting. An emotional response makes the images more vivid.
  • Link more complicated concepts together with connecting images. For example: I once remembered “IPAC conference in China” by visualizing a great arena, adorned with giant red flags and filled with a mass of black-suited Chinese officials clapping and looking up at a podium where stood a man holding up a silver backpack with an Apple logo for the crowd to see.

When it is time to reuse your memory palace, remember to reset each area to its original image.

Now, with great power comes great responsibility, according to Voltaire (and Stan Lee of course).

You could use this new ability of yours for good or for evil. You could also simply relegate it to the domain of amazing party tricks if you choose.

The smartest of us will find very creative ways to make use of the database in our work, in business, in competition, in learning, and even when running errands.

Here are sample uses for this memory technique at different levels of complexity: Basic, Advanced, and Expert.


These uses for the 20-Item Memory Technique that even the most timid user can take advantage of.

Memorizing a shopping list consisting of 20 Items

Remembering a 20-step process

Remembering directions with up to 20 instructions

Remembering Top 10 and Top 20 lists

Remembering ordered list


These uses for the 20-Item memory technique require some addition steps and technique refinement.

Scoring more than 80 on the classic memory game Simon (The World Record is 14. What?!)

Memorize an outline for a 5-minute talk (novice speaker) or one-hour keynote (seasoned speaker)


These uses for the 20-Item memory technique require application of additional strategy and technique refinements.

The Poker Player Mind Reader

Keep track of players over several hands and use data to analyze tells and bluffing and betting behavior. This is a powerful information system to have in place when coupled with a basic understanding of human decision-making strategies and randomization.

The Profiler

Build a profile of a person you have just met that dramatically improves your rapport building, personal connection, and ability to communicate and persuade.

The Deception Detector’s Baseline Kit

Gather a solid mental baseline on a subject across five channels of communication during the preparation stage for an interview or video analysis. This is a perfect tool for those with ETaC training.


What ingenious applications for the 20-Item Memory Technique will you find?

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