When I interview or study audiences who view PowerPoint presentations, I often ask them what they remember and I observe patterns in their responses. Last week, I offered scientifically based research to answer that age old question: what do audiences remember from PowerPoint Presentations. In that post, you learned to not go to extremes with your slides. Here are two more tips to ensure your slides will stay in your audience’s minds 48 hours after they attended your PowerPoint-based presentation.

Audiences remember visual, concrete language

People tend to remember high-imagery words (e.g., turbine) a lot better than low-imagery words (e.g., analysis). This is great news because many presenters complain that they do not have time or money to find and purchase expensive photos to include in all slides in their decks. If you have highly visual language, you can save on stock photography.

Visual language is typically concrete language. In general, concrete words are easier to remember than abstract words because concrete labels can be encoded in your brain in two separate ways, one involving an image and the other involving a verbal code or meaning. Notice how in the example below, the concrete words would be a lot easier to remember than the abstract ones.

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For your next presentation, take a look at the Notes section associate with each of your slides and look for this: if the Notes contain abstract words, are the pictures on the slide strong enough to paint an image in your audience’s mind about what is important? If not, make sure there are photos to bring to life abstract notes. Or, if the Notes already have a lot of visual words (e.g., someone telling a story), then the slide can simply contain some key words and not a lot of images.

Audiences remember “chunked” content.

Items that are “grouped” around the same topic are easier to remember (for example, a list with 4 words such as bread, butter, jelly, and knife are better remembered than a list containing words such as leaves, boat, needle, and milk).

There are many ways to group items in a presentation. Sometimes items appear across a timeline, so chronological chunking is logical (e.g., “this is what our company did 15 years ago, this is where we are today, and this is what we will likely do for the next 15 years”). Moving from simple to complex is also a good way to group items because the brain will appreciate not having to think too much in the beginning and will enjoy the variety and substance brought by complexity later on.

Other grouping techniques include cause and effect (e.g., “customers are buying from the competition, what should we do differently”), categories (e.g., “there are 3 ways to improve our social marketing for next quarter”), or order of importance (e.g., here are the first 3 steps to acquire 30% more customers).

What are some mistakes that presenters make in chunking or grouping information? First, they have too many chunks (less than 4 is a good number for the entire presentation). Second, the grouping type is not made clear (it helps when we announce “Let’s study this topic by order of importance.”). Or some presenters use the wrong type of chunking. For example, color coordination. Notice how in the example below, there are three sections, each indicated by its own color (green, blue, and purple).

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The cautionary part about using colors to group content in a presentation is that memory works on a chaining mechanism. The recall of an item often depends on its predecessors, and items that appear later in the chain (or in this case, slides that appear later in the presentation) depend on the accurate recall of previous items. While color helps with chunking, it may not provide a link that is strong enough between various items.

For more ways to control what people remember from PowerPoint presentations, register today for the Rexi 1-Day Workshop on November 13.

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