Brain Rule 1: Survival, of the fittest presentation

In our blog series on the Brain Rules, we look how John Medina’s brain rules can apply to presentation structure and design.

Brain Rule 1: Survival, of the fittest presentation

You may think it a challenge to apply Medina’s #1 rule to presentation structure and design: but “Survival” is all about our ability to solve problems.  (The brains at Presented solved this challenge quickly, ahem). Indeed, our brains evolved to learn, to collaborate, and to make progress with others through team work and partnerships. We have an inherent need to get things agreed – and acted upon.

To quote brain scientist John Medina, “our ability to understand each other is our chief survival tool”. So when presenting to a roomful of brains, you will be perceived as a highly valued individual if you can communicate clearly and with a purpose. Your presentation structure must be understandable and your call to action should be powerful and relevant.


Although at Presented we call ourselves a presentation design company, what we do isn’t only making slides pretty. Medina’s brain rule proves that there are scientific reasons why it’s essential to nail the presentation structure and the key message behind your slides.

Here at Presented we often use Cliff Atkinson’s “Beyond Bullet Points” method to create the best presentation structure. Our clients often report back on their success (more sales, more bookings, more sign ups, more interaction) so we’re confident that it works.  (It’s the only format which has consciously taken into account Mayer’s multimedia learning principles)


What makes a good presentation structure?

Firstly, we need to state our call to action near the start, not just hide it at the end (when we are more likely to have lost people’s attention).

Next, we need to repeat our key messages, within a presentation structure that has crystal clear navigation, so that everyone is sure about where they are within the presentation. The number 3 is often used in a presentation structure as a golden number of key messages to make. If you can break your call to action down into 3 proof points, you’ll be on your way to making a scientifically strong presentation structure.

The main body of your slides should then be geared to prove or provide evidence of each key message. Your audience will really believe your messages and your presentation will likely stay on track and have purpose. How you phrase the text is also important: conversational language, as well as the same grammatical tense all help give a coherent message.

Finally, we need to summarise our call to action and our key messages at the end. Repetition and the use of a conclusion slide will really help the recall ability of your audience’s brains. If they have understood you, they will value you.

And then chances are, you’ll survive…