Audience retention and application are top concerns for presenters of all forms–teachers, public speakers, leaders, interviewees. Ensuring that our audiences not only retain the information we present to them but also find a way to apply and implement that information through experience is what drives much of our content development, visual design, and delivery processes. There are several models available to us that can help us understand how to create content that our audience will retain including the Made to Stick model I’ve previously discussed and John Medina’s brilliant Brain Rules. In this introductory video to the Brain Rules concept and the first rule, “Exercise boosts brain power,” Medina explains just why we need to understand how the brain works in order to best maximize its potential–in essence, it’s because our modern business and educational environments are designed to work against our natural brain rules (cubicles, stationary desks in sterile classrooms).
Today’s data display, which comes by way of Daily Infographic, provides further insight into the brain, how it works, and how it retains information. Created by mindflash.com, “How does the brain retain information?” first explains where information is stored in the brain. As presenters, we should recognize that how we structure and present our content will appeal to a different part of the brain (literally, it will cause our electrical systems to fire neurons in that particular portion of the brain). For instance, when we use pathos or ideas that appeal to emotion, we are tapping into the amygdala (which also happens to be the root of presentation anxiety); when we apply the picture superiority effect, we fire a complex series of actions in the cortical structures of our audiences’ brains: the occipital lobe processes the visual information, the parietal lobe pairs that visual with the text on that visual, and if we do our work well, the frontal and temporal lobes store that information in our working and long-term memory (hence why applying the picture superiority effect–pairing image and text together leads to 65% greater retention of information).
So that’s where the brain stores information, but how does it actually store that information and retain it? The second part of today’s infographic describes a working theory for this process, which is still somewhat of a mystery. What is interesting about this complex system is that everything begins with electrical impulses. In a flash, the brain reacts to external stimuli, synapses fire, and the brain then sorts and stores information into short term, working, and long term memory. Check out the infographic below and consider how your content, visuals, and delivery impact your audience’s ability to turn your information into working or long-term memory aka retention.