Humans are highly forgetful. According to Hermann Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve (Ebbinghaus, 1913), when we encounter new information, we forget some of it almost instantly. For example, you may leave a webinar or meeting with your head full of new facts and figures, only to find that you can recall very little of it hours later.

ebbinghaus forgetting curve

So why do we remember some things and not others?

Well, for starters, it’s easier to remember things that have meaning. For instance, if you’re listening to a talk on a subject that you don’t really understand or have little interest in, you’ll likely forget it faster than if it were on a subject that you find engaging or exciting.

The way information is presented also has a big effect. You’ll find it easier to remember something that’s been organised logically and communicated clearly. But you may well forget that haphazard, scribbled shopping list!

We’ve explored the concept of memory in a few of our blog posts before, as it is very relevant to creating presentations that not only resonate but are also remembered. Here are three top tips to supercharge the memorability, and therefore effectiveness, of your presentations…

1.Story structure

We are advocates of ex McKinsey & Company, Barbara Minto’s Situation-Complication-Resolution (SCR) framework, for transforming complex business information into a simple, clear and memorable story. Like all good tales, it means having a structure that includes a beginning, middle, and end. When applied to business presentations, this three act format will not only pique your audience’s interests, but also lay a trail of cause-and-effect breadcrumbs that gives them the context to fully understand and therefore remember your topic.

The SCR framework follows this narrative structure:

  • Situation – The framing of important, recent context the audience already knows and accepts as fact
  • Complication – The reason the situation requires action
  • Resolution – The action to solve a problem (or capture an opportunity)

For example:

(S) The pace of change is accelerating. (C) This is creating new, complex business challenges that are getting in the way of progress. (R) We can help you overcome these challenges through X, Y and Z.

2. Keep it simple

Our short term memory holds 7 (+/-2) items of information at once. So when you’re creating a presentation, take the time to work through what you’re going to say, identify the key messages and reduce non-essential ‘noise’. Consider what you have on your slides and keep it simple. People switch off very quickly when slides are too full. So, really cut down what is there to lower cognitive load for your audience and aid memorability. It’s not always an easy task, but if you keep JEEP (Just Every Essential Part) in mind, you can’t go wrong. Remember, words are powerful. So choose them well.

3. Picture superiority effect

Sometimes, however, words alone aren’t always enough as the brain cannot listen to a speaker and read a slide at the same time. Studies have shown that people remember pictures better than text, especially over the longer term. This phenomenon is called the Picture Superiority Effect. According to John Medina (2008), when an image is paired with information, people are 55% more likely to remember the message 3 days later.

the picture superiority effect

In “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds”, author Carmine Gallo adds:

“This has enormous implications on how best to design and deliver presentations that are intended to inspire or persuade people to take action.”

So, consider where you can support your content with icons. Or, be really bold and lead with a full screen image. With royalty free images and icons becoming more accessible in PowerPoint (see our Using Images blog), it has never been easier to add some visuals to help tell your story.

Therefore, before you reach for your laptops and open PowerPoint, stop and think about improving memorability by considering the flow of the story, how you’ve set it out and where there may be an opportunity to use concise language or images to bring your messages to life. Make sure your audience is still talking about your presentation weeks later!


Ebbinghaus, H. (1913). Memory; a contribution to experimental psychology. New York city: Teachers college, Columbia University.


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