You Ask, I Answer: Helping People Remember When You’re Speaking?

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You Ask, I Answer: Helping People Remember When You're Speaking?

Bobby asks, “How do I help people remember what I’m presenting when I’m speaking?”

To help people remember what you’re presenting, try to reduce cognitive load as much as possible. This means keeping your slides clean and simple, providing captions, and not overwhelming your audience with too much information at once. You can also try to make your talk more entertaining and emotionally engaging to help people remember the framework of what you’re presenting.

You Ask, I Answer: Helping People Remember When You're Speaking?

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Christopher Penn 0:13

In this episode, Bobby asks, How do I help people remember what I’m presenting? When I’m speaking? So this is a really interesting question because there’s a lot of different schools of thought about presenting and stuff.

But here’s what we know for sure.

There is a limited amount of bandwidth that your brain has when you’re dealing with any amount of new information, especially if you are in an unfamiliar situation.

When you go to a conference, you are not in your office, not at home, not in a comfortable, familiar surroundings.

That’s a good thing, because it gets you to do different things to behave differently.

But it also imposes a cognitive cost, right? unfamiliar surroundings, your brain is already on a higher state of alert.

Right now, you’re not in danger, I hope you’re not in danger at a conference, but your body and your brain are still reacting to a new environment.

So that’s part of the puzzle.

The next thing you have to remember is that our brains are differentially optimized for doing different tasks, our fundamental basic senses, we are good at multitasking, right? We can see images and motion pretty easily, right, you can look at something in front of you and see something you know other to the side of your eye.

Pretty straightforward.

You can hear different kinds of sounds right? You can hear music and know that somebody’s you know, eating up a bag of chips behind you.

You can smell things, you can taste things, those are all the most primal senses.

And as a result, because we’ve evolved to survive, our ability to use those senses in tandem, is pretty good.

where things start to get tricky, is with language.

So language came much, much later in our evolution than the basic senses, right? Animals have basic senses, your dog can see your dog can hear your dog even has some some pattern recognition.

But your dog does not comprehend language, may recognize phrases and associated rewards with those phrases, but doesn’t actually understand language.

We do we process language and we process it in a different part of our brain.

One of the things that this is challenging to deal with as a speaker is you can only your audience can only process one language stream at a time, you can see and hear a bunch of things all at once, you can only process one stream of language at a time.

So if you are listening to the words that I’m saying, you’re probably going to struggle reading something at the same time.

This is one of the reasons why if you want people to focus, don’t load up your slides with tons of words, right, keep the number of words on your slide to a bare minimum.

And in doing so what you’re going to do is reduce the cognitive load of trying to process two language streams at the same time, you can have a few words on a slide right you can have two or three or five or maybe 10 words on a slide.

But if you have paragraphs and lists, now people are either going to read or they’re going to listen, but they can’t really do both.

Now, here’s where working memory gets really, really damaged.

Once people start writing, because writing came after reading, write it the ability to write engages more of your neurology, right because you you’re reading your eyes are scanning your brains interpreting when you’re writing, your eyes are scanning your brains interpreting language, and you’re then coordinating muscle motion at the same time.

And that’s totally hoses, your ability to have an operating working memory.

Imagine well just think back to the last time you try and take notes right you’re trying to take notes on the speaker speaking and just like ask as fast as possible.

You may be able to to write down what’s being said or shorthand of it.

But you can’t remember it right you’ve you made you’ll physically not remember what was said until you go back and look at your notes because you sacrifice so much of your cognitive power, your processing power to listen, see, read and write at the same time you’re stacking up all these modalities, and it’s very, very challenging.


as speakers Our job is to reduce cognitive load as much as possible.

That means There’s a few different things one, again, keep those slides clean.

Don’t ask your audience’s brains to work too hard, because it’s just not going to go well to give people the the content, or let people know that they can get the content so that they don’t have to write things down if they don’t want to write now, some people Yeah, some people from a brain perspective, they they do better, there are a few who do better reading and writing at the same time.

Not many of us are like that.

So if you tell people, hey, the slides will be provided.

Or even better, a recording of the sock is going to be provided, it relaxes people, like oh, I don’t have to try.

And remember everything’s being said, I know that if I hear something I can take from what I want now and then go back and rewatch re Listen, etc.

is important.

provide captions, right? There’s no excuse now, in 2022, or, later, if you’re watching this after this year, for speakers not to be using closed captions, the presentation software of the day all has live real time captioning based on AI.

And for people who would prefer to read rather than listen because their brains work better that way, you’re providing that language stream for them.

And that’s different than reading off of a slide because it’s synchronous, or it should be synchronous with what’s being said.

So your brain is seeing words in the captions, but they’re synchronous with the coming out of your mouth.

So you’re still only processing one language.

So you’re not trying to read something that the speaker unless the speaker is literally reading off their slides, which is never do.

You’re still having to process two different language streams was captioning in one language stream.

So provide the materials if you can.

And then the one other thing that I’m really bad at personally, don’t overload your audience’s brains.

Right? If there’s a ton of material, provide some handouts if you need to, especially supplementary stuff.

Try not to just dump everything on people all at once, which I am really bad at.

And I’ve been getting better over the years, but still do some work.

So those are the ways that we as speakers can improve the retention of information, we’re delivering backups, right? Different, you know, you can get the materials, no conflicting language streams, and reducing cognitive load as much as possible for people that will help our audiences get the most out of our talks.

The other thing you can do that helps with memory and just anchoring, it’s harder to do.

It may not be suitable for every topic, but stuff that’s entertaining, stuff that is emotionally engaging generally works really well.


So funny stories and things.

People can follow stories, people can can process stories in some kind of memorable framework, right? There’s a beginning a middle and an end.

Or there’s a small idea that goes bigger or big idea that grows smaller, but there’s some logical sequence that you’re presenting information.

Then what happens is, instead of trying to store all the details, people store the framework in their brains, and they can remember it easier.

I have even seen some talks that were complex talks where there’s a little sort of progress bar almost on the bottom of the slide that just says like, here’s what we’ve talked about today, so that people can remember just the framework.

So these are all different things you can do to make your talks more memorable and help people retain more information.

Really good question.

The answers are challenging.

Answers are very challenging as speakers and the best speakers figure out how to do this in such a way that people retain the maximum amount of useful information.

Thanks for asking.

If you’d like this video, go ahead and hit that subscribe

Unknown Speaker 9:03


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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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