Blog number 12 from our 12 brain rules series. About improving presentation design and messaging …and delivery. We’ve taken each brain rule and applied it to presentation design, messaging and delivery. Admittedly, a couple we had to “bend” a little to apply to presentations, but that’s “creativity”, right?

Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Our brains are constantly on the look out for understanding. Brains like learning new things, they do! They like following stories, they are curious and they are always up to something… Our brains are basically puppies! But let me not digress (no matter how much I want to) about puppies (sigh)…

John Medina points out how baby humans are the: “model of how we learn — not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion. Babies methodically do experiments on objects, for example, to see what they will do.

Our brains react in a similar way to each and every speech or presentation that we attend. We turn up hoping that this will be good! That we’ll learn something, that it will be useful to us. That it will make us think, perhaps challenge us: because we are ‘powerful and natural explorers’. Sadly most presentations then turn to the “passive reaction” that Medina describes because no planning has gone into presentation design, messaging, and delivery.

Interestingly, it’s often in our “downtime” that we have the best ideas and thoughts: left to it’s own devices, the brain will often make connections and have ideas that are good! Do you find this? Those ideas sparked in the shower for instance? Brain Rules illustrates this with a story from google:

Google takes to heart the power of exploration. For 20 percent of their time, employees may go where their mind asks them to go. The proof is in the bottom line: fully 50 percent of new products, including Gmail and Google News, came from “20 percent time.”

Of course, we don’t want to give an audience ‘down time’ during a presentation as such. But delivery techniques like adding pauses and allowing time for reflection are crucial to let brains digest, whirr and purr. Audiences will understand and remember more from a presentation if it’s well paced. Talk fast, sure, but add well timed pauses to allow brains time to explore possibilities and make connections.

PowerPoint explorers


Improving presentation design and messaging (…and delivery)

So remember: when an audience is ready to listen to your presentation, they are full of curiosity and ready to explore: so your start is important.

Brains want to quickly understand the purpose of any talk. It’s important to state your key message simply and clearly, and within the first 2 minutes, so that:

  • Your audience immediately knows this will be relevant to them. Believing in the relevance of a talk makes people pay more attention.
  • Getting to the point fast frames your slide content with the right context. This increases the understanding of the subsequent information that you present. The audience are simply on the same page.
  • Use each slide heading to encapsulate the message that you want to make. Be clear and be specific.
  • If you are confident that your audience gets the gist, then you are actually free to delve deeper into your content if you need to. Presenter and audience can naturally explore!

And finally, perhaps don’t talk about puppies too much. (Or do. I’d listen!)