Repetition. Mnemonics. Visualization. These are but a few ways that people commit things to memory. Knowing this, speakers can - and should - utilize certain strategies to make their presentations more effective and memorable.
In this post, we’ll break down some thoughts on memory by Memzy's Managing Director and Cognitive Neuroscientist Carmen Simon, including portability, timelessness, and syntax.
Portability, or the ability to apply something in various contexts.
How “portable” is your idea or message? According to a study by Cornell University, phrasing affects memorability, and relies on both distinctiveness and generality. People are more likely to repeat phrases if they can apply them in multiple contexts.
Carmen’s recommendation? Create generic statements, using the present tense and limiting personal pronouns. Think of some famous movie lines or slogans, and think about how they could’ve ended up.
You’re gonna need a bigger boat. --> You’re gonna need the bigger boat.
The first instance, which is the actual movie line from Jaws, can be used pretty flexibly. Some use it when they’re simply in need of more resources. Had the writing team written the line as the latter, it would not have made any sense off the water and wouldn’t be as commonplace of a phrase as it is today.
The best repeatable messages have a lasting impact and endure time. They focus on three aspects:
A fundamental problem, one that is related to the audience receiving the message,
Building a stimulating mental image, and
The right level of complexity.
Quick note on the third point: There is a difference between profound complexity and intimidating complexity. Never overwhelm your audience with too much information that they cannot process.
Simple (but disfluent) syntax.
The order of words is important if you want people to remember what you have to say. At the same time, disfluency is also necessary.
That is, half the battle is making sure your statements flow together as a whole, creating what Carmen calls a “safe canvas.” Next is marking that canvas with distinct, disfluent words to provide cognitive roadblocks that elicit deeper processing. Seems counterintuitive, but it works. (Just make sure your entire message isn’t all over the place!)