This was going to be a reasoned summary of all of the latest thinking on retention & memory, to help presenters get their audiences to remember what they’ve spent ages preparing to tell them. But it’s now something different. Why? Because I began to wonder, yet again…
- Why it is that when I’ve read Macbeth 150 times, I can’t remember large chunks of the text?
- Why is it that when I hear a fantastic song on the radio, I can only remember the chorus?
- Why is it that when I’ve been to see a stand-up comedian, that I laugh and laugh, and however much I try to make myself remember, I forget almost everything as soon as I leave the theatre.
Then I remember. It’s because I’m human. We’re designed to forget. We’re great at remembering general themes if they’re relevant to us, and absolutely unsuited to memorising large (or small) chunks of data for anything but the shortest time. For us presenters, broadly speaking, relax and remember your audience will have forgotten 98% of everything you said within 24 hours of the end of your talk. But they’ll remember the key messages forever if they were-
- Relevant to them
- Repeated often enough
- Resonated with other things they already knew
That’s all you need to know to be a great presenter. So why worry about whether they remember everything. Focus on what’s really important and build a repetitive, relevant and interesting speech around that. It’s not the speaker’s job to make people remember what we say. It’s a speaker’s job to find reasons for our audience never to forget.
That’s much harder and more rewarding. But if you can do it, you’ll stand out from the crowd. If they have to remember everything, have them learn by rote- It’s what airline pilots have to do- boring, repetitive, mind-numbing rote learning of procedures. Then it’s not a speech, but a spelling bee.
This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.