Repetition alone isn’t the best way to teach something

Current research in neuroscience has illustrated that simple repetition of information enough for the brain to grasp everything.

Typically, with repetition-based learning, the brain remembers the big picture, but loses the details. This is due to a new theory in neuroscience called Competitive Trace Theory that essentially explains how sometimes memories of similar nature can merge with one another and details get lost.

So if we are shown a series of photographs of the same dog in different environments we’ll be able to usually remember what the dog looks like – however, a lot of the details about the changing environments will sometimes be lost.

Traditional presentation creation dictates we use repetition

I’ve heard a saying in presentations before: “tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them”. It’s a saying that essentially translates to “repeat yourself a few times”.

Let’s say you have three major takeaways in your presentation. You start out your presentation with those three takeaways, then gradually make a case for each of those takeaways throughout your presentation and then recap those three takeaways at the end of your presentation.

This isn’t a bad way to get your point across – and it works well actually.

However, if you want something to really stick with your audience, recent research in neuroscience tells us you’ll need to use a blend of memory techniques.

For best results, you need to use a blend of memory techniques.

Memory techniques, or mnemonics, are tools that you can use to remember things yourself, or give to your audience so they can better remember your material.

Here’s a few examples of memory techniques and how you can use them in your presentations:

  1. Acronyms
    Creation of an acronym (such as ROYGBIV for the colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) is great for remembering lists of things. If it spells something memorable like a real word that relates to your topic, even better.
  2. Rhyming Expression
    An easily remembered expression that rhymes (such as “I before E, except after C”) can be great for helping to remember a strategy or a key takeaway to a research report.
  3. Visual Model
    People eat with their eyes first and information is no different. If you have a complicated topic, try and create a diagram, a flow chart or something that explains what you’re talking about in a visual way.
  4. Handouts/placemats
    Creating a well-designed handout with just your key points on it brings what you’re talking about out of the digital and into the physical. It becomes another way your brain can process the information and it survives long-after the presentation has concluded.
  5. Absurdity or humor
    Sometimes, the use of a crazy metaphor or joke that provokes laughter can make a point stick. Couple this with an equally memorable image and this is a great recipe for having an audience remember a key point.
  6. Multimedia
    The idea that people are visual learners or auditory learners has been disproven as of late. Instead, research has found that a blend of teaching techniques works better for everyone – so weave in elements like speech without presentation, presentation aided speech, video and more.

Back to you: Got any other tips for getting your audience to remember your talk?


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