The Von Restorff Effect: How To Make Your Ideas Stick

December 18, 2015

powerpoint designWhen creating presentations, many of us have one or a few ideas we hope the audience will remember. But how can we ensure those essential concepts stick out amongst all of the supporting ideas in your presentation, as well as stick in the minds of audience members?

There are many techniques for creating memorable presentations. One such technique is based on the Von Restorff effect. If you take advantage of the Von Restorff effect, you increase the chances your audience will remember the critical components of your presentation.

The Von Restorff effect predicts that an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” is more likely to be remembered than other items. It is a bias in favour of remembering the unusual.

To take advantage of the Von Restorff effect, design your slides strategically to emphasize the essential ideas of your presentation.

You want to design a cohesive deck in which all of the slides look like they belong together and tell a consistent visual story; you also want to delight your audience by putting a few surprising twists on some of your slides.

These creative tweaks to your slide style are a great cure for monotony, and will also help the audience retain the paramount ideas of your presentation. Design techniques that will help you highlight key concepts include:

-Adjusting the font for important text. To use this technique, you can change the typeface, font size, or font color as long as these adjustments still fit visually with the rest your deck.

-Changing the type of visuals. For example, if most of your slides use photos of people, use photos of objects or landscapes to shake up the style of your most important slides. Or if most of your slides feature graphs, present your essential ideas with slides that utilize photography or illustrations.

-Varying the background color. This is an easy way to highlight your essential ideas. Select two colors that fit within the overall color scheme of your presentation, and use one background color for most of your slides, and use the other background color for your most important slides.

The slides below demonstrate the power of changing your slide style to draw attention to an important point.

memorable-slides.001 memorable-pitch-deck.001 memorable-pitch-deck.002 memorable-presentation-design.001

In the presentation below, notice how slides 2, 5, 8, and 10 stand out, thanks to the large font size and unique visuals. These slides still fit within the overall style of the presentation. However, they are still different enough to draw attention to critical takeaways for the audience. The other slides, which are mostly comprised of graphs are important supporting slides.


When creating your presentation, design the most important slides to stand out like a sore thumb. The slides that stand out will be easier for the audience to remember, thanks to the Von Restorff effect.

About the Author

Leslie Belknap is the Senior Content Strategist for Ethos3, as well as a board member and speakers’ coach for TEDxNashville. Say hi to Leslie on Twitter; she manages tweets for Ethos3.