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5 memory-boosting techniques to help you perform better in presentations

By Veronica Merry

When that important presentation or meeting is coming up what techniques do you use to ensure that you perform at your best? Learn your notes ‘off-by-heart’? Make audio recordings and listen to them? Visualise yourself in the room calmly making your points and answering every question?

 

Or break into a cold sweat and start to panic?

There’s just something about presentations and important meetings that can reduce even the most dedicated and organised professional into a blubbering mess. But the problem is that when we start to stress-out, we’re not in the best mindset for memory recall. With most people I know falling into the sweaty/panicky camp (including myself many times), I thought it would be helpful to share my top 5 tried and true memory-boosting techniques to help you deliver the performance of your life at your next presentation.

1) Apply the principles that underpin memory recall

There are four specific principles of memory boosting which you should be aware of and aim to use during whenever you are learning something new. These principles include: visualisation, repetition, association and novelty.

  • Visualisation enhances memory because we are much more likely to remember a picture or an image than a wall of text.
  • Repetition helps you to remember in the same way as a song or saying gets stuck in your head.
  • Association is a memory-booster because it allows you to link the new information with information you already know.
  • Novelty - using exaggeration or linking the information to something funny, weird or quirky helps important points stand out. This makes your brain pay more attention, thereby increasing memory recall.

 2) Take better notes

Most of us are great at taking notes but not so great at regularly reviewing them. Then when the presentation is looming - we find that the information has not made it into our long-term memory. According to research, taking notes is not a waste of time because the repetition that occurs does increase memory recall. And if you review notes frequently and often in the lead up to the presentation, this strengthens encoding of the information even more. However, were you aware that the format of your notes makes a huge difference to memory-recall? If the information is fairly linear, e.g., information that runs in a sequence or a step-by-step process, it may make sense to use a numbering system to take your notes. However, what if the information is more complex and doesn’t have a specific order?

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3) Use mind maps

When I think back to some of my first presentations, there were many theories that I needed to recall that were certainly not in a linear order. So my very ordered notes were not the best way for me to memorise this information. Enter mind maps.

 

Mind maps have a central concept in the middle of your page (which could be a theory or the chapter title) with nodes extending from that central concept. The surrounding boxes or circles could be headings and subheadings within the chapter, or main points. You can use colours and images to help organise this information further. Mind maps are effective at helping you remember, because they reflect the way your mind really works- through making connections.

4) Use mnemonic devices

A mnemonic device is a memory-boosting technique to help you associate new information with something you already know. A good example is from primary school when you were learning the notes on the lines of the staff in music and used: Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit to learn the notes E, G, B, D and F. I use characters from TV shows to create many mnemonics when I need to remember a particularly difficult theory. For example, I made a mnemonic out of characters from The Walking Dead -Rick, Michonne, Carol,  Darryl  etc to create acronyms associated with information and it worked a treat!

 

5) Use songs, rhymes and stories

Organising information into songs, rhymes or stories is also a very effective way of boosting memory recall. Why? Think of all those times you’ve had a song ‘stuck’ in your head? Or why is it that you can still remember those nursery rhymes from when you were a kid? Research shows that text associated with music or made into a rhyme is easier to remember for two reasons. The first is to do with the extra layers of repetition that exists within a song or rhyme. For example, most songs are made up of verses with repeating choruses and rhymes have a repeating rhythm. The second reason is that songs tap into our emotions. And those that have watched my video on using the AGES model (Davachi et. al)  to boost memory will remember how important linking memory to emotion is:

Using stories works in a similar way to songs and rhymes. Why? Because it taps into all 4 memory-boosting principles including visualisation, repetition, association, and novelty. Think of all those times a presenter stopped to tell a personal story related to the content. There is something about stories that helps to encode the information for easier recall. So make a great story out of that boring content and see if it helps.

 

What is your tip for boosting memory recall in presentations? 

Veronica Merry (MerryCoach) is passionate about helping people and organisations learn, adapt and evolve to achieve their vision. Veronica has over 17 years’ experience in designing and delivering learning programs across a broad range of disciplines including organisation development, change management, leadership and performance development, mentoring and coaching.  Contact Veronica to help you design and deliver your next organisational development program.

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