Five keys to a memorable presentation

Motti Nisani writes that making a lasting, memorable impression on an audience is the only way to cut through the vast amounts of information people are flooded with daily.

Considering the vast amounts of information people are flooded with these days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a truly lasting impression on an audience. Luckily, research in psychology has unlocked several secrets behind memory formation, and with the right tools, anyone can create a long lasting impression and improve their overall presentation skills when speaking in front of a crowd.

Below are five factors to keep in mind to avoid being forgotten.

 

Create associations

One of the easiest ways to enable your audience to remember a story or detail is to create associations – particularly those that are connected to emotions or something familiar. For instance, try to remember the last time you were wearing the t-shirt you’re wearing today, or what you ate for dinner exactly one month ago. It’s not easy, is it? Now, try to recall what you ate the first time you had dinner with your significant other. Can you also picture what you were wearing? These emotional ties make recall far easier.

You can help your audience create emotional memories – and thereby remember you better – by encouraging them to connect your presentations to their own lives.  For instance, if you would like your audience to remember a progression, ask them to associate each step with their morning routine.

 

Activate the senses

There are three senses you can appeal to during presentations: sight, sound and space. You can target all three by focusing on your presentation design. Within the framework of your design, you can activate these senses by using evocative themes that match your subject, presenting ideas in 3D space, and inserting informative audio and video clips.

The trick here is to remember that these items are meant to emphasise the content of your presentation, but they are not the point of the presentation itself. It’s easy to get distracted by bells and whistles, or even embedded media files – try to keep these down to a meaningful minimum. You are trying to capture your audience’s attention with your idea, not someone else’s video.

Oddly, of  all of our senses, smell is the most related to memory. However, unless your presentation is about food or perfume there is little flexibility in this domain. Your best bet is to maximise your design tools, with an eye on visual appeal, audio and space.

 

Stay in range

People can only keep five to nine items in their short-term memory at one time. If you have a complex topic to discuss, and you want to keep your audience with you, it is vital to stay within this range. You might have 12 valuable pieces of information to bring up, but they are going to be worthless if no one can remember them when they leave, or when you get to your conclusion.

In other words, if you’re presenting an unfamiliar argument or idea to an audience, you cannot expect them to consider more than seven points at once. It is easy to overlook this, but it is important to keep in mind, even in the most simple of tasks. Although we might not realise it, this rule of seven is all around around us – it even set the standard for phone numbers.

 

Know when and how to repeat yourself

As interesting as you might be, no one wants to hear the same information over and over again. Redundant presentations are boring and one of the quickest ways to lose your audience for good. However, rehearsing information can boost retention and be the key to converting short-term memory into long-term.

The right way to repeat an idea is to let your audience know that they will hear it more than once or, even better, ask them to join you in repeating it. Providing your audience with key ideas and then queuing them to repeat them helps maintain focus and build memories.

 

All in order

There are two seemingly contradictory effects that can determine memory: the primacy effect and the recency effect. On the one hand, the primacy effect states that information presented first is remembered well. On the other hand, the recency effect would suggest that information presented last, or most recently, is most likely to be stored away in long-term memory.

You can decide for yourself which one you think is more important, however, you should never decide to bury key ideas in the middle of presentations.

For some people, being memorable is effortless.  But for those of us that don’t have that natural ability to attract people on the spot, these guidelines should help!

 

Motti Nisani is a presentation expert and CEO of emaze.