Make your presentation memorable

As we all know, presentations are all about common sense, so all I am doing here is putting into writing what everybody already knows, but what very few of us actually do.

If you ever wonder what information your audience will take away from your presentation, then you are thinking in the right way, but what are you doing about it?

What are you doing to ensure that your audience takes away the most important points that you want them to remember (and then act on them)?

If you have never asked this question, then you definitely need to read on.

If you are one of the thousand of people who have attended my “Strategic Corporate Communication” training workshops, then you will know that I hate the overuse of text in presentations and I intensely hate bullet points – both are totally unnecessary, ineffective and just shout all of the wrong things about you and your presentation.

If you have participated in my training courses, you will also know that a presentation should be designed and delivered to affect change, and this change should also impact on the audience, if the change is ever going to be enacted or undertaken.

That’s all well and good, but if you want people to do stuff – like change what they do, or change things, behaviours, attitudes, point of view etc., then they will need to be able to remember those important points.

This is called explicit memory, that is those points that you want them to take away with them to remember long after your presentation has ended.

In order to get to the explicit memory of your audience, we have a few points to think about, in fact, 4 ways to make your presentation memorable :

1.   Do not keep your audience in a passive state – get the audience working. How can you do this? Well, have you ever been asked to give an opinion on something during a presentation? Even a simple raising of the hand or some deeper thinking about an issue can be enough to plant an idea into the mind of your audience. Anecdotes and stories that resound with your audience are another way of projecting empathy, to help your audience think about things from another standpoint or angle. Using props that an audience can actually touch can help memory retention, although we can’t always use props due to the actual size of the prop (Airbus 380 for example) or the size of the audience. Here I am talking about seizing opportunities and creating your presentation from a design thinking approach – it is not a flat, monotonous talk to a group of unwilling victims and it never has to be this way.

2.   Think about culture– this can be a national or group culture or a company or trade culture. Audiences will have preferences as to the way they prefer to receive information. Find out what it is and tailor the design process to cater for this. Just because a certain company’s presentations are made up of slides crammed full of text with a monotonous speaker wading through the slides accompanied by an audience who are more than half asleep. It does not mean that this is their preference, it is what I call a ‘frozen status quo’ where nobody really likes it, but we always do it, and have always done it like that (two phrases that are responsible for the deaths of countless businesses).

3.   Build connections– both through transitions and through the points that you are making throughout your presentation. Connections are what happen in the human brain, that work by linking things together – experiences, images, sights, sounds, touch and smell. Memory is seldom a simple process of noting down things, because it just does not work (effectively), memory is sensual and very often involves several of our senses working in combination. Connections that flow through your presentation are the glue that bind it all together and thus help the audience remember more and for longer.

4.   Make it beautiful – clean, sharp graphics that actually tell that story of  a thousand words, or infographics that sing out from the screen and accompany the speech to create real memorable impact. As I have said before – you will be remembered for something, just ensure that it is the right thing and make sure that before you get up to speak in front of an audience, that you have created and are about to deliver something you are immensely proud of.

So, now you know at least, 4 ways to make your presentation memorable

Memory involves the full functioning of the 5 senses, cognition and emotions. So sensations and feelings are therefore just as important for memorisation techniques as reason, logic and reflection.

Remember that the audience are the same as you – if you have difficulties remembering things then it is more likely that it is a malfunction in the way that you attempted to remember it than a memory malfunction per se :

It is difficult to remember something you didn’t clearly hear.

It is difficult to remember something you haven’t clearly seen.

Nothing can be committed to memory if your senses are not alert.

Concentration needs to be good and functioning, which relies on such elements such as interest, enjoyment, curiosity and a relatively calm emotional state.

Being in the right state of mind.

Being active and engaging fully with the content.

Being Proactive

Being empowered and accountable.

Think about how to get the audience’s senses going during your presentation, because that way they will not only be more engaged in your presentation, but they will also remember a lot about it.

If you want an audience to do something after attending your presentation, then empower them and make them responsible and accountable.

It doesn’t matter how often you repeat something or how loudly you say it, if people are not empowered or if they don’t feel accountable for doing it, then sadly they will never really do what you ask of them.

Steve Jobs crafted a fabulous way of getting people interested to change their minds on things when at the end of his keynote speeches he did his “There is one more thing.” Steve Jobs almost delivered it as an afterthought right at the end of his keynote and it was in this section that he unveiled all of the latest developments at Apple, not at the beginning as many would have done it.

This was not only a well-crafted signal to the awaiting journalists and techies that something amazing was coming, but also a great use of recency for the audience to take way, fresh in their memory.

Many presentation gurus will tell you about the so-called ‘rule of three’ as an almost scientific fact, which, to my mind is nonsense.

I have found no evidence in psychological research to suggest that there is any truth to this idea, that appears to be little more than a pseudoscientific rumour and should be treated accordingly.

Some members of your audience will remember one thing, some three, some five or six and some absolutely nothing (yes, that’s right, and guess who is largely responsible for that…) there appears to be no pattern to this, so why bother about the rule of three.

Yes, sure, we often talk about things in threes, but this appears to be more of a linguistic trait rather than a rule of memory.

There is a rule of three that applies to presentations, however, and that applies to almost every presentation that you deliver :

1.   There is the presentation you planned for.

2.   There is the presentation that you delivered.

3.   There is the presentation that you wish you had delivered.

All of what we have looked at here is part of the planning process of your presentation, which makes up 99% of your presentation in terms of time.

You need to have a plan, because if you don’t have a plan all you have is a wish – don’t risk your reputation or your company’s reputation on wishes.

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1 Make your presentation memorable

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