According to brain research reported by psychologist Tony Buzan, there are Five Factors that can increase our audiences' retention of what we say: primacy/recency, providing an agenda, linking, outstandingness, and review.
- Primacy / Recency Effect: The brain recalls material at the beginning and at the end far better than what comes in the middle. Our most important ideas, therefore, need to be hammered home at the opening and closing of our talks. A forty-five minute talk could be broken into three, twelve minute chunks separated by, say, audience participation or a short video. This gives you three primacy/recency effect points in the talk to increase retention of the major ideas.
- Agenda: Announce to your audience your roadmap. When the audience knows your organizational structure, they will retain information longer.
- Linking: Connect major points of a presentation with some common image or verbal marker, i.e., "I have a dream that..." repeated with each new point.
- Outstandingness: Your core message will stick in the minds of your audiences if you connect it with something unusual, strange or out of context. I still remember the laundry being folded and the BBs dropping even though these talks occurred years ago. Speakers usually don't do that sort of thing.
- Review: The memory pattern will be strengthened by reinforcement. This is why a summary at the end of your presentation is so critical to long-term retention.
(Visual Aids Presentations: If you use slides, a good way to transition between the three chunks of a presentation is to hit the "B" button to make the screen go blank. This breaks up the pattern and brings attention back to you. When you're ready to continue, hit "B" again and go back to the slides.)
Speaking of review, the next time you put together a talk, remember the power of primacy/ recency, agenda, linking, outstandingness (Buzan's word, not mine), and review. What is the most unusual thing you've seen in a presentation that you still remember? What have you done to bring that sparkle of retention? We'd love to hear from you.
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