“Dilbert’s” Creator on Making Your Presentation Memorable

In other words, dude’s talking about how to make your concept memorable by putting it out there in a way nobody will forget.

We think:

scott-adams-03The Science of Making Your Story Memorable
by Scott Adams

When I created a Slideshare preview of my book How to Fail… I worked with Dr. Carmen Simon at Rexi Media to get the slides just right, from a design and message standpoint, but also from a cognitive science perspective. I thought my blog readers would enjoy a peek under the hood to see what techniques we used. This is useful stuff.

Dr. Simon explained to me that it helps to think of your presentation in terms of these three elements.

  1. Attention
  2. Memory
  3. Decision

Drilling deeper, all three elements can be activated by emotions. And all three elements can be influenced by automatic or deliberate factors.

Automatic factors (examples)

  1. A shiny object grabs your attention reflexively
  2. The sight of a red apple reminds you of a friend’s cheeks
  3. After a sleep-deprived night, you decide to eat a donut even though you’re on a diet

Deliberate factors (the stuff you care and think about)

  1. What you want out of life
  2. What you expect to see or hear
  3. What you already know

Now let’s see how the science is applied to my slide show titled Passion is Overrated and Goals Are for Losers. 


To get attention, your material must stand out in some way (e.g. through color, size, location, etc.)

The color palette for my slides (grayscale – including white – accentuated with red) puts emotionally powerful colors in stark contrast. Red has a deep psychological impact: It makes breathing harder, quickens the heart, and demands attention. The lack of competing color “noise” makes the color contrast more attention-grabbing.

The first slide in the deck is the most important for drawing-in viewers. We had a powerful color palette, but we also needed a title that grabs attention. Dr. Simon says the four title approaches that do this well are:

  1. Promise a story
  2. Promise a reward
  3. Provoke curiosity
  4. Evoke concern

My slideshow’s title “Passion Is Overrated and Goals Are for Losers provokes curiosity while evoking concern that one might have been doing things wrong until now.

Read it all