How To Use Brain Science To Create Memorable Presentations

Meet Carmen Simon, a Cognitive Scientist. She is a published author and frequently gives keynote presentations. Carmen has been able to apply neuroscience to develop what’s called the Rexi Method.

This method combines principles from brain science, cognitive psychology, sociology, sales and advertising, marketing and of course, adult education. And the key thing is that these principles have been distilled down to techniques that are scientifically proven to work.

Read what Carmen had to share with me during a recent conversation…

Why Is Brain Science Important For Presenters?

There are many angles to brain science and its application to presentations. First of all, everyone in our audience has a brain, so it makes sense to study it, to understand how to best craft information so their brains can process it in an optimal way.

The reason I became intrigued by the application of brain science is because when I was either delivering on my own presentation or helping others to deliver one—I noticed a particular situation. When I called audience members two days later and asked them, “What is it that you remember from that presentation?”, people would remember something, but there weren’t that many answers that would match from one respondent to another.

Whatever you remembered would be different than what I remembered. It would be different than another person and it would be different than yet another person. And that intrigued me because people typically walk away with some sense of what they learned or what they found out and in an optimal way, hopefully they would do something with it.

Usually we tend to make decisions based on what we remember, obviously not based on what we forget and it would be nice if everybody walked away with a unified version of your content, not dispersed versions of your content.

So I looked more at the application of science. I asked, “What if you were to be in control of what people remember and not leave that to chance? Would it be nice if I addressed, let’s just say, 10 people and all 10 people walked away with the same message?” What would that do to business? Would that make sales cycles faster, for instance? Would that bring people closer together in some way? Would they change their attitude in some way if everybody had the same visions?

I remember reading in a negotiation book once, where a person said, “The best negotiation is the one where everybody walks away with the same picture.”

And, yeah, if we look at the application of science to presentations from that angle, then we’re asking the question, “How is it that we leave the process of memory to chance?” And that’s when we bring brain science in and ask, “Well, how is it that the brain remembers and why is that important?” We said it’s important because the brain makes decisions based on what it remembers.

What Must We Understand About Attention & Memory?

Attention definitely paves the way to memory. Often we forget because we weren’t really there. And smartphones and all sorts of distractions these days are not making it any easier for us. People are so tempted to constantly scan the environment and look for novelty. I would say that one of the ways to feel better about ourselves and things that we share with others is to remind ourselves that not everything needs to be memorable, first of all.

Let’s just say that you come at a point where you’re saying, “This message must be memorable.” And it must be memorable, not just for a few minutes; it must be memorable for a few months until somebody maybe makes a decision to act on that information. Because that’s what we’re saying, the only function for memory really is that people act on it in some fashion.

Otherwise, why would memory have evolved anyway? It has evolved to inform the future in the sense of informing the next step or informing decision-making. So, then we’re asking, “Okay, so if we know that the attention paves the way to memory, we want to make something memorable, what is it that grabs attention?” And memory at its core is a discrimination problem.

There are many things that can attract our attention, but if we look at memory as a discrimination problem and we say, “Some things are more likely to get attention, therefore, be remembered, just because they deviate from a pattern that we have expected to see.”

So, for instance, if you see yellow apples, yellow apples, yellow apples and suddenly you see a red one, you’re more likely to pay attention to that one just because it deviates from a pattern that you have learned to expect.

When pondering your own content you may have to think, “What is it that they’re used to seeing and can I deviate from that slightly so that I can grab attention?” And the key word is “slightly” because if you’re deviating too much, there is a little bit of a weirdness that can happen.


What stands out to you most from the information Carmen explained? Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook.

This interview is an excerpt from my new book, Your Brain Is A Blender: A Stirring Guide to Holding Audience Attention, which comes out in 2016. For more details (and exclusives) signup for the notification list using the form below.