Speak Out to Play a Bigger Game

Chunk and Repeat – another tip for presenting with the brain in mind

July 26, 2021 | Paula Smith

Public speaking tips

Have you ever been to a presentation you thought was inspirational or motivational and you left the event feeling on top of the world? Then you get home or return to work, and someone asks, ‘what was the presentation all about?’ and you struggle to communicate the main point of the presentation or any of the key messages?

You know you enjoyed the experience, but you can’t quite put your finger on how the presentation will change your world. Perhaps not a complete waste of time if you enjoyed the presentation, but I am sure you didn’t attend just for a bit of entertainment.

How much did you remember? How much can you repeat to others? Do you think the presenters intended message was communicated effectively?

And, if you were the one paying the presenter for a specific purpose to be achieved do you think it would be a great return on investment?   I think not.

There are many strategies to help our audience to remember our presentation and our words but today I will focus on a pretty easy one to use.

Chunk and repeat.

The chunk and repeat strategy will also serve as a strong reminder not to overwhelm the brain during any presentation. Too many messages or way too much information fails to serve you or the audience.

Instead of message overload, carefully introduce key messages (chunk), stay there for a little while using multiple processing methods, then weave in or thread them repeatedly throughout the session. (repeat)

Although our brains can process information at a rapid rate, we are just not capable of taking in every piece of information thrown at us at speed without having the time to make sense of the information. The memory function in the brain, is responsible for coding storing, retrieving, and even forgetting new information. As a presenter you have the power to help your audience to remember what you intend them to remember and provide strategies to help them to embed these memories when they need to recall them at a later date.

You may have heard of the ‘Forgetting Curve’? or the ‘Spacing Effect’?

German Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time.

His forgetting curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. He also suggested that the speed of forgetting depends on several factors such as the difficulty of the learned material, its representation and physiological factors such as stress and sleep.

He proposed that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

Don’t assume every brain receives and reacts to your information the same way either, this is because we have all had different experiences throughout our lives and as a result, we recognise and process pieces of information very differently. A brain also has to connect new information to what it already knows. (a missing element I find many of my clients forget to include when designing their presentations)

An example of chunking and repeating is:

Share key message 1. Then state a statistic connected to the message, show an image, share a story about it, use an example or a metaphor, get them to do something with the information (this could be as simple as tell their partner something interesting about it), make the information relevant to them, shoot out some questions, check for understanding, state key message again and move on to the next piece of information. We must also give our learners an opportunity to recall the information at regular intervals.

During this whole process dendrites are growing, brain chemicals are being released, sense and meaning is being placed and stronger neural pathways are being created. All these things help us to remember and embed the information.

Then if you want the information to move over to the long-term memory, think about it, talk about it and create an emotional connection to the information.

Spacing is also critical, introduce new information gradually and repeat at timed intervals.

In summary, you just need to chunk your information into small bite site chunks, use examples, stories and metaphors and before you move on ensure that you have successfully transferred the information or skill to everyone (And space it out before repeating). Okay you caught me; I have just repeated the information again to help you to remember it. 

If information is crammed, not spaced or recalled, there is more of a chance that the information will be lost.

This can be challenging in a commercial world when we are forced to learn or train in a quick or intense format because it ‘fits in’ with our work schedules. If this is the case, revision, peer coaching, follow up sessions or using and recalling the information on a regular basis will be the only way the information will be retained long-term.

Another interesting fact is how elaborate we encode new information is how strongly we remember it.

So be creative in your approach. I’ll chat about creative methodologies another time.

Time is money in the commercial world. What’s the point in attending any presentation or sending your team to a presentation if you or the presenter has no idea if the messages are going to stick?

If you are a presenter and would like to know how to ‘present with the brain in mind’, find out when our next Present on Purpose – Neuropresenting (3-day programme) is being delivered. (it’s usually on my website homepage )

Warning though, you will never present the same again.

Or I would love to explore how we can work together to train or coach your team.

Keynote Speaker CSP, Master Trainer, Author and Business Leadership Coach
Paula has been helping experts, entrepreneurs, leaders and teams to harness the power of speaking, leadership and effective communication for the past 30 years. 

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