Use The Serial Position Effect To Prioritise Information When Presenting

Use The Serial Position Effect To Prioritise Information When Presenting

Giving a presentation isn’t just standing at a podium reading a list. If you want to convey your information well, organise it so the most important stuff is told first, and also last.

Photo by Nadine Dereza.

As business blog Harvard Business Review points out, audiences are tuned to what’s called the “serial position effect.” In short, they remember best what you said first. Following that, they’re also most likely to remember what you said last. To capitalise on this, you can use a three-stage approach that prepares your audience for what’s coming, deliver the info, and then reinforce it at the end:

One advantage of the often-used strategy, “tell people what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them” is that you provide an overview of the key points of the presentation in the two positions in which the audience is most likely to remember them. Unfortunately, many speakers open their talk with an anecdote that is engaging, but only tangentially relevant to the topic of the presentation. The audience may easily recall this anecdote later, but it won’t help them to learn what they really needed to know.

By stating your main point first, you ensure that the most number of people will remember it and keep it in mind. Reiterating it at the end brings it back so that it’s the last thing they hear before they leave. You can use the time in between to explain, elaborate, or emphasise the point you want to make.

Getting an Audience to Remember Your Presentation [Harvard Business Review]