Carmen Simon is a cognitive neuroscientist and founder of Memzy, a company that uses brain science to help the world’s most visible brands create memorable messages. She is also a best-selling author and leading expert on using memory to influence decision-making. Her most recent book, Impossible to Ignore: Create Memorable Content to Influence Decisions, has won the acclaim of publications such as Inc.com, Forbes, and Fast Company, and has been selected as one of the top books on persuasion. Carmen speaks frequently to corporate, academic and government audiences on neuroscience research findings related to creating memorable messages based on how the brain works. She holds doctorates in both instructional technology and cognitive psychology.
In this conversation, Carmen talks about her sessions at the upcoming Presentation Summit 2017 in Clearwater Beach, FL.
Geetesh: You deliver a keynote, The Fiction of Storytelling at this year’s Presentation Summit. Additionally, you also do a session, The Meaning of Memorable. Can you briefly go beyond the descriptions, and tell participants what they can expect as takeaways from both your engagements?
Carmen: During the keynote, I am excited to speak about storytelling from a science-based angle. Storytelling is a fertile topic; we hear about it so often that some people may ask: what’s left to say? I am currently completing a research study where I am asking a humbling question: what do people really remember from stories? Intuitively, we believe that stories are memorable. But is that always true? Are there exceptions? Surely we don’t remember every single story we hear…Think about it. We live in a story-saturated world. We hear stories on the news, we read them in newspapers, we hear them from friends. But how many stories do you remember from last week? And not just remember, but really remember? I guarantee: very few, and even with the few you remember, when prompted, you stay on the surface when recalling them and might even remember some wrong things too.
For example, from the research findings so far, I can tell that people remember mainly fragments of stories, not the full story, and tend to generalize their memories. One story in the study included a boy’s trip on a boat on Lake Victoria, in Africa. The boy was traveling with his dad to meet his King on the other side of the lake, and the trip was an adventure because the water was rough, the boat was rocking, and the little boy, in his imaginative mind, thought he was going to die. The story was filled with a lot of sensory information and had a clear timeline, yet some people who read the story reported days later that: “I remember something about nature.”
So far, I am noticing that even when others tell us stories, we remember very little, we remember at random, and we remember the wrong details. Someone told the story of seeing his wife walk down the aisle but the reported memory turned this into a marriage proposal story. In other memories reported, men became women, and a place like “Ontario, California” became either San Francisco or Montreal.
I am excited to finish this research project because I will be able to share with the audience what story elements do stay in our minds naturally, with specificity and for a long time. There will be some good news and tangible guidelines we can all use to influence others’ memory.
Most of our memories from stories are random, faded, and fake
Picture Courtesy: Carmen Simon
During the other track, The Meaning of Memorable, I look forward to focusing with the audience on additional science-based guidelines they can use in their own presentations to create memorable content. We all want to be memorable at some point. I say “at some point” because sometimes it is good that people forget what we do and say. So how do we get to be part of someone’s memory lane? My company, Memzy, helps various organizations use brain science to create memorable messages. So I will share real-life examples of what memorable messages look like and how you can use brain science to learn to stay on people’s minds long-term.
Geetesh: You share your findings and experiences each year at the Presentation Summit. Give us a peek into your life between the Summits; what you do to come up with amazing research findings? Also, tell us about your professional work.
Carmen: My life between Summits includes a combination of speaking engagements, teaching brain science workshops, and helping corporations with presentation design – but only from a brain science angle. I don’t believe in just creating pretty slides. I abide by this formula:
Pretty slides – brain science = forgettable presentation
For example, the slide below is beautiful and matched the rest of the presentation in which it was included very nicely. But does it really say anything worthy of remembering? Not really. First of all, we’ve seen a million of puzzle pictures before, and forgetting is a result of interference: too many things look like many other things, so after a while, we don’t know what was what. Second, the picture is sort of obvious: if we talk about collaboration and there is only one logical place for that puzzle piece to go, the slide leaves nothing to anticipate. When we don’t create anticipation for what comes next, we invite people to multitask. The brain has been designed not to miss anything and if it can predict the next moment, then it can turn to the phone really quick to read a few emails since nothing worthy of attention is likely to happen in the next few moments. This is why it’s critical to use aesthetics + cognitive science to create presentations. Beauty without memory is inconsequential, especially where business is concerned.
Avoid cliché images because they don’t help you influence others’ memory
Picture Courtesy: Carmen Simon
Indezine.com is the Media Partner for the Presentation Summit.
What is the Presentation Summit?
For many years now, Rick Altman has been hosting the Presentation Summit, a highly popular event that is geared towards users of PowerPoint and other presentation platforms.
Date: September 24 to 27, 2017
Location: The Sheraton Sand Key Resort, Clearwater Beach, United States
Twitter Hashtag: Presum17
See Also: Carmen Simon on Indezine