Extended Webinar Q&A: What Does it Really Take to Create a Memorable Presentation?

Extended Webinar Q&A: What Does it Really Take to Create a Memorable Presentation?
December 19, 2013

Last week, Carmen Simon, PhD, from Rexi Media, presented a Brainshark webinar exploring the question, “What does it really take to create a memorable presentation?”

In this popular webinar, Dr. Simon presented four neuroscience principles that enable presenters to capture their audience’s attention.  Through examples and exercises, attendees learned practical ways to implement these principles right away to make any content memorable.


View the webinar replay to learn how you can use the four principles to attract  attention and increase retention of precisely the information that is important to you.

We had so many questions that we weren’t able to address during the webinar. So, Carmen graciously agreed to answer them in this blog.

Q. What do you do if your slideshow is in a cycle? There are no actual first slides depending on when you come in­.

Carmen: In the webinar, I insisted on the importance of the first slide in a presentation because, when we do it well, we appeal to the more “reptilian” part of the brain, which is a faster decision maker. So you buy yourself a few more minutes of an audience’s attention. “Doing it well” means either promising a story about your main objective, or promising some rewards, or provoking curiosity, or evoking concern. A title such as “How to implement an ecommerce system” is weaker than “How a burnt-out company doubled its revenue with a new ecommerce system”.

If you don’t have a first formal slide, then the scope of each slide is to attract attention for at least a few more slides. For a kiosk-type presentation, consider changing the pattern at least every 5th slide. I include this number based on a research study I conducted, where subjects viewed a deck of 20 slides, and in the treatment groups where a deck included a change every 5th slide, the recall of those changed slides was higher. As people approach the kiosk, they will award you a few seconds of attention out of sheer curiosity. You can prolong the attention by changing the pattern. For example, if they had looked at text for a few slides, change to pictures, or the other way around. The idea is to break the pattern quickly and reinforce the curiosity state.

Q: ­How do you create a catching first slide when your organization requires a template for all PPT?­

Carmen: Use the four criteria outlined above for titles. Often, a good first slide is not because of the design but because of the words. It is too tempting to blame the template when the first slide is not creative. Often, all you need are just the right words. Ironically, it may take you longer to come up with the right words than to come up with a catchy design.   But the effort is worthwhile.

Q: ­What if you're selling to engineers?  They typically care a lot about the features.  How would you recommend creating emotion without making them think you're trying to add too much "fluff"?­

Carmen: You are selling to humans first and then to engineers. The human brain is drawn to emotion because emotions are shortcuts to thinking. This is important to understand because, all things being equal, we would rather not take time to think. Emotion does not have to be “fluff”. I am not advocating Zen-like presentations for a technical audience. A picture with a field of flowers and one giant key word at the top that says IMAGINATION would fall flat. Emotion for technical audiences can be tied to drivers. Everyone, including engineers, is tied to an emotional driver, such as freedom from worry, efficiency, leisure, improved appearance, money, entertainment – any remarks that tie your content with any of these drivers will get attention and will not appear as fluff.

Q: ­Thoughts on using webcams while presenting via webex?­

Carmen: Treat the webcam like you treat chocolate. Moderation will make for a sweet presentation. If you have a lot of appealing slides with tons of pictures and text, the addition of the webcam will overwhelm the visual channel. If you have less visual stimulation, the webcam will enhance it. For financial and technical information, stick with slides. For enabling a more emotional connection with the audience, turn the cam on and look straight at it to simulate eye contact. The message will be very powerful.

­Q: How do you make sharing data fun?­

Carmen: This is like asking how to make vegetables taste delicious. The question is very broad so to answer it well, we would need to deconstruct it and answer some subsets of the question. For example, when and why sharing data is NOT fun? One of the reasons is because there is too much of it. So, one of the solutions is to keep it short. Most people will make it through a financial presentation if they knew it was short. Fun does not have to be spicy or entertaining. Short is fun.

If it’s spice you’re after, you can turn it into an interactive exercise, where people can guess what the numbers are instead of being told what they are. A game like “21” can be adjusted to your numbers. Fun will work in this case only if people are in a good mood. If it is bad numbers you’re presenting, a game is not going to make it fun. Honesty and brevity in this case will be the best solution.

Q: How about trial presentations that are for court and should be strictly factual without any opinions or emotion?­

Carmen: Trial presentations are laden with emotion just through the sheer nature of the content and context. When you report how the “victim’s bone was exposed through the knee”, you don’t have to do anything else. Report and watch the impact of that statement.

Q: Can you add trivia anywhere?  Do you try to tie it back into the subject or just leave it random thoughts?­

Carmen: Trivia is great for engagement and entertainment value, but if your session is educational, tie it back to the objective you’re presenting. The stronger the connection, the stronger the recall. Memory is based on associations and connections, so the more “traces” you create for a specific memory, the higher the recall rate.

View the Webinar Replay