Five Presentation Brain Science Insights You Should Take Note of in 2015

These nuggets of brain science wisdom, as it applies to presentations, will make you think differently about the way you approach your next speech.

This is my brief 2015 aggregation of the best quotes I could find from experts I study on a weekly basis. Some quotes cover how to structure your presentation. Some discuss how to best engage your audience.

They’re great insights. In fact, you might want to keep these in mind as you outline your upcoming presentations and talks for 2016.

1. Susan Weinschenk

Susan Weinschenk is a behavioral psychologist who has been working in the field of design and user experience since 1985. She has published five books, including 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People. She also is the founder of the The Team W/Weinschenk Institute.

Because audiences [get used to certain] stimuli [during a presentation], it helps to keep things at least a little bit unpredictable. If your presentation gets too predictable, people will lose attention. This goes against the adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Although it is important to have an organized presentation, you need to build in some surprise. Ask a question, move around, tell a story, switch topics, and take breaks at intervals that are not exactly the same. Use pauses to grab attention.

2. Sharon Bowman

Sharon Bowman is the president of Bowperson Publishing & Training. She has been a professional speaker, author, teacher, and trainer for over forty years. She works with businesses and educational institutions that want to offer exceptional in-house training and professional development programs. Sharon is the author of seven books, including The Ten-Minute Trainer.

The human brain likes learning small “chunks” of information that are followed by short breaks of some kind. Remember the ten-minute rule: content segments should be about ten minutes in length. Active review breaks can be a minute or two—just long enough for [audiences] to take a break from passive listening. Have them talk about what they’ve heard, write down key points, state an opinion about it, ask or answer a question about it.

3. Garr Reynolds

Garr Reynolds is an internationally acclaimed communications consultant (and blogger at and the author of three best-selling books, including Presentation Zen. A sought-after speaker and consultant worldwide, his clients include many in the Fortune 500. An award-winning designer and writer, he currently holds the position of Professor of Management and Design at Kansai Gaidai University.

Our audiences bring their own emotions, experiences, biases, and perceptual filters that are no match for data and facts alone. We must be careful not to make the mistake of thinking that data can speak for itself, no matter how convincing, obvious, or solid it may seem to us. We may indeed have the best product or solid research, but if we plan a dull, dispassionate, “death by PowerPoint” snooze-fest, we will lose. The best presenters target both the logical left and the emotional right brains—that is, “the whole mind”.

4. Patricia Wolfe

Patricia Wolfe is a former teacher and adjunct university professor. Over the past 25 years, as an educational consultant, she has conducted workshops for thousands of administrators, teachers, boards of education and parents in schools and districts throughout the United States and in over 50 countries internationally. Her major area of expertise is the application of brain research to educational practice. Patricia is the founder of Mind Matters and author of Brain Matters.

A picture is worth at least 10,000 words. Humans are intensely visual. Our eyes contain nearly 70% of the body’s sensory receptors, and they send millions of signals per second along the optic nerves to the visual processing centers of the brain. It is not surprising, then, that the visual components of a memory are so robust. Although each of us has the ability to process kinesthetic and auditory information, we take in more information visually than through any of the other senses.

5. Eric Jensen

Eric Jensen is a former teacher with a real love of learning. While his academic background is in English and human development, he has a real love of educational neuroscience. For over 20 years, he has been connecting the research with practical classroom applications. Eric is the founder of of Jensen Learning and author of Brain-Based Learning.

Humans are natural meaning-seeking organisms. But while the search is innate, the end result is not automatic. Since meaning is generated internally, excessive input can conflict with the process. An important principle to remember is that you can either have your [audiences’] attention or they can be making meaning, but never both at the same time. Some kind of reflection time—writing or having a small-group discussion—makes good sense for the brain after new material is presented.


Do any of these quotes specifically speak to you or an area of presenting you’ve struggled with? Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook.


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