Repeat to remember: Memorable presentation structures (Brain Rule #5)

What makes a memorable presentation structure? The answer is repetition.

What makes a memorable presentation structure? The answer is repetition.

That repeated line is (obviously) deliberate: we’re making a point that repetition is an important technique to help the brain to store and recall information.

Let’s step back in time, back to when we had to memorise phone numbers. Someone (let’s say someone cute) shares their number with you. But you have no way to record it (no pen, no paper, no smartphone!): so what do you do? Well, you repeat it, out loud probably, and you cluster the numbers together perhaps, and you repeat it again. It’s a natural technique we’ve learnt to prevent information from escaping from our fleeting working memory. We have learnt that repetition, however clumsy it might feel, helps us to recall information in the future.

presentation structure

Do you consider using this technique when putting together a presentation? Obviously, we don’t recommend a single slide with the message over and over again… but there are structural & navigational devices we can use that make using repetition quite natural.

State your presentation structure:

A useful strategy is to place your key messages up front and easy to follow within your presentation structure… Literally stating them on a slide: and using that slide a few times (a divider slide for instance). So that each time your chapter comes along, you can repeat the 3 key messages. “3?” I hear you ask?

Generally, the human brain can only hold 5 pieces of (new) information for less than 30 seconds. Good brains can handle 7, other brains just 3. It’s a bit like the skill of juggling, most people will be able to manage 3, but only a true master can juggle 7! So we recommend appealing to the masses and sticking with 3 key messages if you can.

Once you have chosen your 3 key points, consider the information you need your audience to remember: if that information doesn’t fall under one of your 3 key messages, then either you have the wrong key message, or you have information that isn’t necessary to share. This is a simple way to cluster information to reinforce your points.

Top tip:

This presentation structure is one of our favourites.  The dividers would then be repeated for each key message, with the relevant section highlighted. And we’d also use a summary slide to repeat all 3 key messages at the end. You may then end up with this slide in your presentation 5 times. Talk about powerful repetition!

At first you might worry that it won’t “flow”, but you don’t need to vocally repeat the key messages each time. They’ll be seen. And that’s enough. We guarantee that using dividers in this way will enable your audience to remember more of your information. For your audience it will feel structured, organised, and clear: this reflects on you and your performance as a presented. Give it a try!

Trust us: you’ll get brownie points for your memorable presentation structure!