Look at these two slides:
Which one helped you understand the concept of Death by Powerpoint better and more quickly?
I'm guessing the one on the right. Yes? Did you know that 30% of our cortex is devoted to visual processing, so understanding concepts from pictures is much easier for the brain?
How many times have you been in a presentation, pinching yourself to stay awake? Don't be that presenter. Let’s have a look at some facts about your brain that can help you make more interesting and more memorable presentations.
2. Reading a list of bullet points activates the language processing parts of your brain. Once you’ve finished, that’s it. Now imagine that instead of a list of bullet points, your eyes are looking at a picture and your ears are listening to a story. Research has shown that storytelling activates many other parts of the brain, keeping the audience much more involved.
3. Make your presentation more memorable by helping the audience create connections in their brains: Making connections between different areas of the brain is vital for laying down strong memories. When you hear a story, your brain is searching for its own similar experiences, creating connections with the content you’re hearing and memories that are already in your brain.
4. If I read you a list of words, do you know which ones you would remember? The answer is most likely to include the first, the last, any words that were repeated, and any surprising word. Primacy, recency, repetition and novelty are key in remembering. That’s why it’s important to identify your message, and repeat it, especially at the beginning and end. You also need to think about your audience: what would be novel for them?
5. It’s not entirely clear how many slots are in your working memory, but it’s probably around 4. Research has shown that people remember on average 4 slides from a 20-slide presentation. Changing the format of the slides every 4th slide can help people remember more easily.
6. Look at these two slide decks: which one do you think people would remember more of?
Did you choose the one on the right?
In fact they are almost the same, there is no significant difference between how much information people remembered from each presentation. Even though the slide deck on the right looks more interesting and probably took a very long time to create, both slide decks contain too much information and the slides are too similar to each other.
7. So what's the main factor in making a memorable and impactful presentation? The answer is you, the presenter.
Everyone knows how important English is in todayâs world, right? I would say everyone, except your kids. Most children I know see English as another boring school subject, with the added potential for great humiliation.
As we can all attest, the brain has a much greater capacity for remembering at a young age. Added to that, there is a cut-off point for pronunciation around puberty. Past this point, itâs very, very rare to have complete mastery of an accent: Starting English at an early age is crucial, and although schools (Iâm writing this in France, so Iâm using France as a model) have caught onto the fact that English needs to start in primary school, the standard of English-teaching is very inconsistent and the amount of time spent on it (1 hour a week maximum) is not enough.
If a) children are not intrinsically interested in learning English and b) they need to learn English, as parents what can we do?
3. Find a fun English class. Look for ones that concentrate on oral English and games. Save grammar and writing for school.
4. Let them see you speak other languages. Make it something normal, even if your own English is terrible. In the Netherlands for example, everyone speaks English, itâs part of life. The children grow up seeing it as something that everybody does, not as something special.
5. Send them on a language holiday. Choose wisely (see my article on this here.) If itâs a good one, they will use their English to make friends from all over the world and have an amazing time. It will also give them a reason to speak English, not just on the holiday but throughout the year, keeping in touch with their friends.
6. Never tell them things like âFrench people arenât good at languages.â Itâs not true, and it gives them a reason to fail before theyâve even started.
How about you? What do your children do to learn English or another language?
Sending your kids on a language holiday is a fantastic way for them to improve their English: if everything goes well, they’ll make friends from all over the world, in English, and wanting to in touch with those friends will give them a reason to improve even more. And yes, for the older ones, there might even be an international love story…(don’t worry, they are supervised at all times!)
Language holidays are expensive. So how do you make sure you choose the right one?
6. Bedrooms. It’s better for the children to sleep in smaller bedrooms, rather than big dormitories, as there is more chance they’ll be with speakers of different languages. Be aware that if your child is going with a friend, they probably won’t be in the same bedroom. Shared bedrooms are also better than single ones, as there is much more potential to make friends with kids from other countries.
7. Phones. The school I worked in restricted wifi to two half an hour slots per day and students were not allowed their phones at night. They did complain, but they actually spent more time speaking to each other than snapchatting their friends at home.
Did you know that you can also do a summer school? Why not go and work on your English at the same time?
On a personal note, I was the Academic Director of CAE summer school in 2015 and 2016, and I can highly recommend it!
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...