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Agenda items presented right in
the beginning often kill the
anticipation of what comes next.
You can set the agenda, but also
announce a few surprises that will
occur through the presentation.
This will heighten the audience’s
curiosity and increase attention
Attention – which is often mandatory for
memory – depends on a clash between an
object and its environment. If you want to
draw attention to a specific item in your
presentation, make it deviate from the
Colors can lead to memorable content because they impact
mood, evoke emotion, organize information (e.g., mind maps and
associations), or draw attention to a specific object.
Warm colors such as red, yellow, or orange
can make content memorable because
they are more stimulating.
Just because diagrams and charts and
stats have been abused in slides, it does
not mean they should be excluded
completely. Be careful of over-simplifying
presentations. Charts, numbers, and
diagrams bring substance to Zen
People remember more from presentations
that elaborate on content, and diagrams
or charts help you elaborate. Elaboration
works because it leads to more
connections in the brain and therefore
more memory traces formed for a
Mix dense slides with simple slides to provide
the brain a breather and refresh attention. Do
not feel that too much empty space on a
slide leads to sterile design.
There can be reverence in emptiness. A single
brush stroke can communicate a great deal.
Sometimes not having a template and
starting from a clean slate can lead to a
more creative presentation. Imagine if
you did not have any “shells” to fill up.
Imagine if there were no precedent to
what you were trying to do.
What would you do differently in your
presentations right now if you were
freed from constraints?
Much of the language in corporate presentations is clichéd,
vague, and pretentious. To connect with an audience
better, choose words you would use at the dinner table
with friends. Because these phrases are likely to be more
genuine and simpler, they will be remembered better.
We buy from people, not from
slides. You can list all the facts
and features of your product or
idea, but it’s ultimately the human
side of your truth that is
remembered more and becomes
Beginners place elements on slides arbitrarily.
Advanced presenters place images, text,
lines, and shapes with the intent of leading
the eyes around the design. This means you
control where the eyes go, which means you
control the audience’s focus and attention.
The brain needs contrast to make decisions faster and easier. Consider
presenting your products or ideas in contrast with other products or
ideas. Anchor your thoughts by establishing a benchmark (e.g.,
“Microsoft does it this way, and our organization does it the other way”).
Include “before and afters” of your ideas so the audience can
appreciate your proposal and act on it faster.
There are few absolute truths. This
means your audience will have great
contributions to your materials... if you
Avoid the “know-it-all” approach. The
more you invite them to participate,
the more memorable the content,
because they will remember content
over which they have ownership.
Imagine your presentation like a skirt:
short enough to be interesting and
long enough to cover the subject.
Attention drops significantly after the
first 10 minutes of a presentation; if
your presentation is longer, you must
vary the pace and format to re-set
this starting point.
Ultimately, the audience will forgive you
for sub-optimal design if you offer
relevant content that means something
to them. People will forget slides but they
will remember the meaning of what you
said, if you made it clear.
The structure of your presentation
does not always have to be linear.
As long as you have a clear
beginning, ending, and a solid
main point, you can afford to
deviate to address participants’
needs and questions.
If you are too attached to a linear
script, you may miss the chance to
allow the audience to take you in
a direction that favors them.
People remember content better if
they contribute to it in some way.
...their point. Present from where
they are, not where you are.
Anytime you link your content to
concepts such as personal
appearance, comfort, leisure,
competence, money, efficiency,
freedom, self-confidence, health,
or time savings, you will have the
audience’s close attention.
Link any of these concepts to the
ONE main idea and you will have
a memorable presentation.
Robotic presentations that
follow a predictable pattern
lose the audience’s attention
Consider bringing one of your
unique qualities into your
design. What makes you
uniquely you? Let that show.
The style of the images, text, shapes, and lines – all these elements, when
repeated, add consistency and professionalism to any presentation. The
brain needs a rhythm, a routine, a pattern before it can notice anything
The best presenters appear
relaxed, natural, and
spontaneous. They react quickly
and easily to anything that
happens during a presentation.
They speak as if they were talking
to a friend: nothing seems
scripted. This type of speaking
builds an immediate connection
with the audience and sustains
If you aspire toward memorable presentations, you
must practice transitions from concept to concept,
from slide to slide.
Memory is based on associations, and the better
you link each slide to the next, the stronger the
retention of your content.
Modern audiences are
overwhelmed by information.
Very few complain of too short of
Consider starting with absence in
mind: how much of the intended
content can you safely eliminate
so you focus more on essentials
and less on excess?
Any content becomes stronger when you
present it through a framework. Consider
presenting the “why” first, then the “how.”
Return to the “why” at the end of the
presentation to leave the audience on a
higher ground. People often remember the
end of a presentation, so if the “why” is
clear, they will endure any “how.”
Some presenters speak in
such abstract, obscure words
that it is difficult to
understand them. Worse, it is
difficult to remember them.
Help the audience see what
Paint a mental picture by
using action words and
colorful adjectives. Notice
how easy it is to picture “a
plush white leather interior
with lustrous cherry wood
Zeigarnik was a psychologist in
the ’40s who researched the
concept of closure. She noticed
that we tend to remember
unfinished things more than
finished things. A great
presentation leaves the
audience craving more.
Promise them that in a future
presentation, you will solve an
additional problem or provide
additional useful information.
People will be inclined to return
to something that has not been
More to come on science-based
guidelines for presentations.
Meanwhile, for help on how to apply
these principles in your own
presentations, contact Rexi Media at
TO BE CONTINUED…