If Mark Twain's memory was full of blank cartridges, as he once wrote, then Robert L. Montgomery's memory is like a loaded machine gun ready for combat.

Montgomery, a business-management consultant, memory expert and author of "Memory Made Easy," does not consider himself a genius or a magician. But he does boast proudly ofa memory that is far superior to that of most people, simply because he has devised a system for improving memory skills. And, he says, anyone can learn his system and gain immediate results. s

Montgomery, in fact, guarantees that it works.

"If you go about this half-heartedly,you're going to improve 100 percent the day you begin," he says from his home in Burnsville, Minn. "But if you do it whole-heartedly, there's a vast area for improvement that's up to 500 percent, 300 almost on a minimum, if you go after this thing intensely for a few weeks."

In 25 years of teaching memory improvement, Montgomery, 53, says he's encountered all kinds of forgetful types, including some who couldn't even remember their own children's names. Before revealing his techniques, Montgomery explains why most people forget: phone numbers, birthdays, names, the simplest of things.

"People have misunderstood the fact that the art of retention -- memory -- is the art of attention, or listening. People don't forget names. They never heard them in the first place. You can't forget what you didn't know.

"There are three keys to memory. They are visulization, repetition and association."

Montgomery says he will never forget another name now that he has mastered a memory system. "I do crazy things with names because it works better for me. I try to encourage people to tie in the first name in an association so you've got both first and last names. Ask the person how it's pronounced or spelled, any information about it. While the person is speaking keep repeating the name in your head over and over."

You're at a party and you're introduced to a woman: I am Gloria Betancourt. I'm a housewife and the mother of two children. My name is spelled B-e-t-a-n-c-o-u-r-t."

Montgomery puts his system to work to remember the name:

"And it's pronounced? Bet-an-court . Her first name is? Gloria .

Can you see her in a courtroom making a bet? Gloria bet in court that she would be found not quilty. And what a glorious day when she was declared not guilty! You should visualize both you and Gloria in that courtroom making that bet. Got it? Now -- her last name is? Betancourt . Her first name? Gloria . Full name: Gloria Betancourt."

Another example: "For Jankowski, visualize Joe riding a cow. But the cow is on skis! Joe is saying, 'Giddyup, Jan!' and you're hollering, 'Whoa, Joe!'

"Get a vivid picture, the most ridiculous picture possible to be sure the name will stick," says Montgomery. "And always try to put yourself in that picture. Get involved. It makes instant recall just that much more certain. pBe sure to repeat the name as much as possible."

Montgomery cringes at the word, forget . He believes that with practice, desire and concentration, just about anything can be memorized.

"The master key for everything in memory is association. The mind is an association machine. Everyuthing in it we've learned from birth until now."

Montgomery, who spends considerable time traveling around the country speaking to groups and businesses about improving memory and publicspeaking skills, tells management-training groups that a poor memory can mean time lost. Which means lost money.

He relies heavily on the stack and link method. This involves nothing more than stacking a number of items, such as a grocery list, in the most ridiculous way possible so it will be retained, basically because of its ridiculousness.

For example, a shopping list: milk, lettuce, ice cream, cough syrup and a birthday card. "Picture a hugh milk bottle with a big head of lettuce pushed into the neck of the bottle. Then have a quart of chocolate ice cream melting on top. Have the cough-syrup bottle sticking up out of the quart of ice cream. Picture the huge birthday card tied to the top of the bottle -- it's sticky on the syrup. See the words Cough Syrup and Birthday on the card.

"Now how could anyone forget a picture like that?" he asks.

Montgomery became interested in memory techniques as a grade-school student during World War ii, when he gave a speech on buying war bonds to a local parent-teacher association. "They were the kindest audience in the world," he recalls. "They listenedand applquded, but they knew it was memorized. I didn't falter, but it was canned and it lacked spontaneity."

He says a good speaker is one who can talk from memory, but not recite from memory. In business, where many corporate executives are called upon to speak before varous groups, they would do better to memorize only a list of key points or items, and speak less formally. The result is not only more impact, but the audience is more likely to stay awake.

Montgomery says most people lack confidence; they're afraid to speak before large groups or even smaller gatherings. And, he says, much of that lack of confidence is attributable to a poor memory.

"People don't fear the audience. They feel they're going to forget and be embarrassed and make a fool of themselves. If they could learn a little memory, think of the astonishing confidence that would come from it."