8 Psychological Principles to Make a Memorable Presentation

October 27, 2014

We all have experienced our fair share of bad presentations. A colleague steps up to the front of the room. He or she presents. We all fall asleep. It’s the plague of the current business landscape.

Why is it this way?

Most presenters are neglectful of how individuals learn. A few years ago, a research team led by Stephen Kosslyn and comprised of experts from Stanford, the University of Amsterdam, and Harvard made it a mission to unpack how presenters could improve in the art of public speaking. What they discovered were 3 steps that go into receiving and digesting information from a presentation:

1. Information Needs to be Acquired

2. Information Needs to be Processed

3. Information Needs to be Connected to Knowledge

If there is any disconnect from steps 1-3, a presentation will not be effective. Their study went one step further by unraveling 8 key principles that help people remember. Here they are:

Information Needs to be Acquired

Principle 1
Distinguishability: Every presenter needs to make it extremely easy for an audience member to distinguish colors, typography, size, format, etc.

Principle 2
Perceptual Organization: The content and design of your deck must have order and a sense of purpose. There must be a logical flow or the message will not be received well.

Principle 3
Salience: Important and critical concepts must be clearly defined visually by using simple design techniques like white space or the rule of thirds.

Information Needs to be Processed

Principle 4
Limited Capacity: A presenter’s message must be simple and easy to understand and retain. One must imagine they are talking to a child when presenting.

Principle 5
Informative Change: Any change must have purpose and meaning. Don’t use animations and transitions just for the purpose of novelty.

Information Needs to be Connected to Knowledge

Principle 6
Appropriate Knowledge:
Jargon and difficult concepts must always be avoided. Great presentations are about brevity and levity.

Principle 7
Compatibility:
Every presentation must add value to the audience’s life.

Principle 8
Relevance:
The human brain has limited capacity. Therefore, every message should maintain a level of depth to keep things relevant while being simplified logically and visually for the audience to help with retention.

These are 8 principles that can take your next presentation to the next level if you incorporate them when preparing for your next talk. The main lesson here: Don’t neglect how the human brain functions and learns. Trust me. Your audience will appreciate your careful planning.

READ MORE: The Science of Procrastination: Why You Should Start That Presentation Today

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

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