Tag Archives: art of memory

Order, Chunking & Repetition: The Memorability of Organized Information

Presentation_Design_Organized_Information_new-03
We’ve explored the effect visual and emotional stimuli has on memory, but the Art of Memory works only begin with these two ideas. There are numerous other tactics and theories covered in the literature. For the most part, those theories all revolve around one main tactic: organizing information.

When presenting, the best way to insure your message stays with your audience is to communicate with them in ways that their brains can easily process, commit to memory and recall. The brain understands the world around it by creating associations among the occurrences and information it perceives. Take a note from the brain’s penchant for organizing information and organize your arguments.


Order

When the brain perceives the world around it, it strives to make sense out of what it perceives. What came first? And then what happened?

There’s a reason that timelines and flowcharts have become presentation staples. An argument line should always be accompanied by linear order of events, whether they be in the past, present or future. By placing information into a linear order and supplying a visual aid for the brain to recall, you’re helping the brain to form a story line in the manner to which it is accustomed.

Information Chunking

Long sets of information are tedious and often too detailed for the brain to reliably recall. By chunking information into groups of associated facts, you’re doing some of the work of the brain.

Information chunking can be used in many ways throughout a presentation. Divide a long timeline up into “eras.” Talk about the four main benefit categories of your product, even if within each bucket lie many specific benefits. Categorize facts into argument buckets: premeditation, crime and cover up.

Repetition

If you’ve ever suffered through late night advertising, you’re familiar with the benefits of repetition. Those ads can be so cloying and irritating. And yet, you remember it. So how can repetition be employed without annoying your audience?

Presentation_Design_Roadmap_Slide Every presentation should use a “roadmap,” or overview, slide. A roadmap slide will outline the
linear order of your presentation and list the major information chunks you are about to share, plus it comes with the added bonus of being the landing slide between each section. Without the cloyingly obvious “repeater” effect, you get to remind the potential buyer that your product markets, tracks, automates and analyzes several times throughout your presentation. A roadmap slide creates order, chunks your information and fixes your arguments into the listener’s brain with repetition. It it the holy grail of information organization.

The many works that cover the Art of Memory explore many options for enhancing the memorability of information. Though originally developed to aid the rememberer, these principles can be leveraged to create more memorable presentations. Keep in mind the effects of visual stimuli, emotions and information organization when preparing your next presentation and use the tips to not only reach your audience, but stay with them long after you’ve left the stage.

Emotions and Memory

Emotions and Memory
Lately we’ve been exploring the ancient Art of Memory and, most recently, the main principle regarding importance of visual representations to forming strong memories. As a few commenters in our LinkedIn groups mentioned, the visual sense is only one of many ways to appeal to memory. Creating and feeling emotion is another important element to creating strong memories.

Content alone is never sufficient. We need an emotional connection.
– Garr Reynolds

When we feel fear, relief, happiness, or sadness these carnal feelings awaken primal parts of our brains. The occurrence or information that caused the emotion, then, is burned into our memories right along with the reaction. Emotion and information gel into one experience, be it positive, negative or simply intense.

Imagine the trial lawyer, is there any question why he emotes so freely during opening and closing statements? In his appeal to the jury, he is solidifying the argument by drumming up their primal and reactive emotions: fear of a defendant (whether it be a murderer or a corporation) or fierce protectiveness of a victim.

Take fracking, for instance. There are many who are informed and opinionated about the issue, but if your job is to educate and convince the everyday layperson, explaining the reduced dependence on foreign oil or environmental dangers might fall on disinterested ears. Instead, appeal to their emotions. Discuss lowered gas prices or, depending on your position, the health risks of natural gas mixing into water supplies.

Sure, fracking is a sensitive subject; not all presentations are chock full of emotionally stimulating information. How do you create the drama when your subject matter is a little dryer?

Stir emotion in your audience by showing them how the information relates to them. If you’re introducing a new software system, make sure you’re appealing to the audience members’ emotions: how will the new software ease their daily workload? how will it help them excel in their careers? Allay any emotions you do not want them to associate with the information: the new software will not render any jobs obsolete.

When presenting, it’s important to use all the tools available to communicate to your audience in a way they can understand and remember. Visual aids help solidify information into memory and emotion has a way of seating information in our minds. Not only does it grab attention, but it creates a relatable experience for the audience. Relate information to your audience in a way that makes them feel your point.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou

Thinking In Pictures

Thinking In PicturesIt has been long recognized that visual representations greatly enhance our ability to remember and recall information. In fact, the dominance of the visual sense is the most important principle of the Art of Memory.

Perhaps Aristotle said it best, “The soul never thinks without a picture.” (De Anima)

If one hears “red brick house, 4 windows, stoop with three steps” an image begins to form in the brain, essentially streamlining the words heard into one cohesive picture. The brain is doing some work here to make information easier to remember.

When presenting information to an audience the goal is to not only engage your audience but to make your arguments or data memorable. Don’t make your audience do more work than they need to, because, as all presenters know… they wont.

Why not help the brain out and make the information as easy to remember as possible? Do the work of the brain, so you’re not relying on disinterested brains to take that extra step. Show your audience illustrations, icons and diagrams that they can associate with the information presented.

For instance, a scientist tasked with explaining the similarities and differences between diamonds and graphite to laypeople might offer a confusing explanation of molecular structure, carbon and tetrahedral formations. The audience, unfamiliar with the terms and thus unable to streamline the information into a cohesive visual idea, will likely discard the information. The scientist has just failed his task, when instead, he could have offered a simple diagram to increase the audience’s retention.

Molecular Carbon ImageThis slide, constructed for a patent hearing, shows the molecular structure and bonding configurations of sp2 and sp3 carbon, and then ties that information to the end product, something familiar to the layperson. Suddenly, the scientist’s task is easier and the audience has a visual aid to both understand and remember just what this scientist is trying to explain.

When presenting, its critical to use your slides to give the audience all the visual cues and imagery they need to be able to quickly comprehend and file away the information for future recall.

Like Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember.”

The Art of Memory

The Art of MemoryWhether a presentation is meant to inform or convince, the audience wont get much out of it unless the content is memorable enough to stay with them.

Memory is a slippery fish. Sometimes we try to remember, and fail. Sometimes we’d love to discard information, but just can’t seem to shake it free from our memory. What makes some events and information more memorable than others? And more importantly for presenters, how can even the most dry subject material become memorable?

Everyone remembers where they were when they saw the footage of the World Trade Center attack; the image exists, ready to be recalled at the mere mention of the event. The vows of a spouse may, likewise, be happily burned into our memories along side the emotions they produced. We may also be able to recall nearly word for word, some of our favorite childhood stories.

People as far back as the early Egyptians noted the difference that images, emotion and narrative had on solidifying events and information into concrete memories.

Based on these first realizations, philosophers, orators and men of science throughout the ages went to work to understand memory: how it works, how to improve it, and how to appeal to it. Overtime, some of the most influential minds of history took up the study. Greats like Aristotle and Cicero wrote at length regarding their thoughts and findings about memory and how to affect it. Some of the earliest works date back as far as 400BCE. Now collectively referred to as the Art of Memory, the main principles can be divided into three main buckets: Visual, Emotional, and Organizational.

An image, seen again, brings to mind the associated information. Information that made us feel happy, sad or scared, gets a special place in our memory. Information that was organized into a linear storyline of cause and effect helps the brain build causal bridges between the events, helping to tie the memories together.

How can these main principles be harnessed to improve your presentations and your audiences engagement and recall? The following three posts will explore the principles of the Art of Memory, and how to use them to insure your presentations make your information as memorable as possible.