We’re linking presentation science to the Brain Rules. In these 2 rules we look at how to improve presentations and the whole presentation experience using John Medina’s findings.

Improve presentations with Brain Rules 2 & 7:  Exercise & Sleep.

John Medina’s brain rules state that exercise and sleep are critical for good brain function.
We can’t however go for a run or take a nap during a PowerPoint presentation… no matter how tempted we might be! (Sure, so we’ve probably ALL had a little shut-eye time, but best not to admit that in your workplace).

How can these brain rules improve presentations for your audience?

Improve presentations

Brain Rules 2 & 7:  Exercise. Sleep.

Let’s take exercise first:

Ever taken part in a workshop or presentation where the speaker gets everyone to stand up, stretch or jiggle (yes jiggle)? Although it may feel embarrassing, they are on the right track to boost your cognitive function.

Our brains work best when oxygenated through light exercise. Cognitive function improves activities such as spatial tasks, reaction times, quantitative skills and memory. Not only does oxygen flow help – “Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.”

Many meeting experts swear that walking meetings are the best. Perhaps in the future audiences will walk on self-propelling treadmills and harness the energy generated into powering big screens or VR experiences in the ultimate eco-friendly way. You read it here first! … ahem, but in the meantime, you can keep your audience alert by using interactive functionality. Encourage them to move a little – even a forced stand up and stretch from their seats does help attention spans.

Other mini-breaks will also boost the presentation experience such as: voting, polls, any kind of interaction, change of direction or enforced movement, whilst not strictly exercise, it certainly won’t inhibit that oxygen flow. Your own energy is also infectious – a lively presenter will keep your audience awake and therefore more likely to laugh, smile and move a tiny bit in their seats. Little things all help to improve presentations.

At the other end of the scale is sleep.

We probably don’t want to schedule a nap in the middle of our VIP delivery. No matter how tempting that might be! Ahhhh, sleep is wonderful right? The chance to switch off. Except, apparently we don’t really switch off, our brains are always on the go, even whilst resting.

In Medina’s Brain Rules he says “It’s possible that the reason we need to sleep is so that we can learn.” Napping is normal and it’s believed that around 3 p.m., half way through your (typical) daily waking hours, all your brain wants to do is nap.

There’s a battle raging in your head between two armies. Each army is made of legions of brain cells and biochemicals –- one desperately trying to keep you awake, the other desperately trying to force you to sleep.” So perhaps we SHOULD have a nap scheduled in the middle of a conference!

However, let’s simply look at it this way:
1) make sure you are well rested, and 2) do your very best to avoid the 3pm speaker slot…

Beyond that, don’t rush your delivery: well timed pauses are necessary for your audience to process your content. Audiences that have time to think, will often start to think of ways they could apply any new knowledge gained. So it’s not a nap, but pause often and let brains do their thing!

Good luck with your next presentation! Obviously top quality design is a shoe-in to improve presentations… just get in touch for any advice.

Another brain rule blog for presentations.