What makes a presentation more engaging and memorable

There is a great experiment you can try around the question “what makes a presentation more engaging and memorable?”
Slowly read to yourself this list of words, and then close it down, and write down as many of the words as you can easily remember (without using any special tricks that is).

When you do, you will probably find that the words you remember fall in line with this graph.
The reason for this is explained by four phenomena:
  • Primacy and recency – we tend to have better recall of the first things we encounter, and the last
  • Structure – we tend to be able to retain things better when they are part of a structure we understand
  • Emotion – things which makes some sort of emotional connection with us tend to be remembered better
  • Von Restorff effect – things that surprise us or seem out of context are often easily recalled
Across wide populations of people, these four effects make certain words in the list far more memorable than the others, and this is an important lesson in making your presentations memorable.
  • Put the messages you want people to take away with them right at the start of your presentation, and repeat them again at the end
  • Connect those messages together in a structure which makes sense to your audience, make it easy for them to see how they fit together and link into their own situation
  • Where possible, make an emotional connection between your key messages and their thinking – humour is often a good way to do this
  • Try and find a way to make your key messages stand out – do not be afraid to surprise people (in a relevant manner) – perhaps using, props, pictures, or activities
And remember to limit your messages to just three or four things. If you think back to the last few presentations you attended, it is about all you will be able to recall from them anyway – so if people are only going to recall three points from your presentation, then make them points of your own choosing rather than a happy accident.

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