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Making your Presentations Memorable

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Making your Presentations Memorable

Recently one of my colleagues shared his thoughts on some of the challenges that we face during online meetings, which are becoming more and more prevelant, especially in large multinational corportations, where it is quite common to have teams or projects where all people are based in different locations.

The challenges of online presentations are something that I’d like to return to in a later post.  For now I’d like to share my thoughts on how to make your presentations more memorable.

I’m a big fan of Mindmaps, and I recently bought a book called Mindmaps for Business by the Mindmapping guru Tony Buzan.  One of the chapters is dedicated to improving your presentations with Mindmaps.  The reader learns how he, or she, can use Mindmaps to better plan their presentation, and even as a medium to display their presentation – replacing our dreaded old friend, Powerpoint.

However what stood out for me, and what I want to share with you, is something I guess that is obvious, but which a lot of us overlook when presenting.

It is quite well documented that in any learning situation, which is essentially what a presentation should be, “your audience will remember more at the beginning and at the end and less in the middle, where their memories will sag.  They will also remember parts of the content that stand out from the rest”.  For the theory behind this read more about the Serial Position Effect and the Von Restorff Effect.

When I did my first ever training on presenting, the instructor told me that I should always plan my presentations with the following structure

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  2. tell them
  3. and then tell them what you’ve told them.

Too often we see presentations where there is no introduction and no summary.  I’ve seen/heard others, and have been guilty myself of ending presentations with that immortal line of “Well that’s all I have to say, um, thank, er, you”.  Don’t pass up on the opportunity to finish strongly, and take advantage of the Serial Position Effect.

With regards to the Von Restorff Effect, and making content stand out, I’m a great fan of stories, anecdotes and relevant examples. Also if you’re comfortable with it, don’t be afraid to use humour, but make sure it’s appropriate.

If Mindmaps are not for you, and you want to use some different from Powerpoint, I’d highly recommend that you try out Prezi.  I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and to date I’ve been getting great feedback from my audiences.  Remember however it’s still only a tool, and should not be used as a crutch.

So what are your thoughts on this topic?  Is this new to you, or are you already practicing these principles?  What hints and tips do you have?  Please leave your feedback in the comments.

The views expressed on this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

Image credited to

I live in Kilkenny, Ireland, and I'm married with one daughter. I was born in Derry, and came to Kilkenny via Manchester, England, and Dublin. My passion is all things Social Media, and for the last 2 years I have been working as a Social Media Evangelist for Oracle, where I have worked for the last 8 years. This role entails, promoting the use of Social Media internally for improved communication and collaboration. My other interests include sports, especially football (soccer), reading, video games, movies/tv, music and walking.

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  • Anonymous

    Well said Frank, I especially agree with focussing your audience’s attention to the content of your presentation by setting this up at in advance via the expectations that are set for the presentation. People like to have their expectations met and if we outline at the begining of a presentation what we are hoping to achieve from the presentation and then recap afterwards, we are more than half way to ensuring that our audience stays with us and (more importantly) gets something out of it.

  • Frank I sometimes observe myself and others being too ‘casual’ and ‘familiar’ with audiences. A good example is perhaps a product manager presenting to a sales team within the same company. One of the most influential books for me is The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling by Mr Stephen Denning. Capturing an audiences attention is in fact telling a good story. The beginning middle and ending are addressed and what you do with the middle I found most interesting and re-enforces your post. I concluded having read the book that the middle part of the presentation was in fact simply support material for a good beginning and ending.

  • Hi Frank,

    nice post!
    Prezi’s spatial layout allows the presenter and the audience to see the big picture and zoom into the details during a presentation. For this reason they can always be aware of the topic at hand, and their attention will not decrease as it does watching a linear slideshow. This approach also helps to understand more of the topic, since our brains are wired to think in spaces not in slides. Prezi also encourages audience involvement since viewers can relate information to spaces of the canvas.

  • Nice one, Frank. I look forward to your future posts regarding online meetings. Specially since non-verbal communication is undermined by the primitive technology we use.

  • Great presentations are also great performances! I have always felt that many of the techniques used by actors are very helpful in overcoming presentation issues. “Remember however it’s still only a tool, and should not be used as a crutch” I think this is a great point & would recommend that people learn to deliver without tools at least initially.

  • Frank,
    Interesting post.
    As a presentation skills trainer, I use these 3 steps always – the nice thing is, that when I state the 3 points, I get many raised eyebrows, and questions like “Isn’t that assuming the audience is thick?”
    I love these sessions, esp the realisation of the fact that we have a finite attention span, and people remember the first and last things they hear or see.

    What does annoy me however, is the myth that PowerPoint and other presentation apps are ruining presentations. The only thing that can ruin a presentation is the presenter.

    My presentation skills courses always include a session on PowerPoint (or similar) or indeed one day presentation skills, one day PowerPoint, so the presenter can learn to present well, overcome fears, and prepare an intelligent, interesting and simple PowerPoint.

    Also, there is always the misconception that the audience know them (esp if in-house) so the structure you describe is imperative, but I would add a step:
    Introduce yourself
    Introduce your topic
    Tell them what you’re going to tell them
    Tell them
    Tell them what you’ve told them
    Q&A session
    Wrap Up / Thank you

    I recommend never leave Q&A session last – this allows the meeting / presentation to go overtime.
    Take a few questions, offer to answer others individually, and “That’s a wrap”. Period

  • Anonymous

    Hi Carmel,

    Thanks for your comment. I think that many people do forget the basic principle that the audience is there to learn something.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Michael. I’m a firm believer in good Storytelling, I must check out the book. To take the analogy of reading a book, if the start is not good, you are likely to give up. The same principle applies for presentations, which is why it is so important to set the scene.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Zoli. Prezi is great. I’ve really been getting into it over the last few weeks. Here is an example of something I put together earlier this week –

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Facundo. I promise to make a post soon on this topic. But not too soon, as I am going on holidays next week 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Niall. You use a phrase that is used all the time by the people who have given me training on presentations – The Talking Trade ( – i.e. it’s a performance. I like your advice on learning to deliver without tools. In fact when I get back from holidays I might check out our local Toastmasters group, and jump in at the deep end.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Elaine. I 100% agree with your point about the problem being with the presenter and not the tool. In fact I had a debate about this with a colleague today. I showed him a Prezi that I had created, and he made the comment that he would not use the tool as it would be a distraction for the audience. I only agreed with him, on the basis if the tool is used correctly. I’ve seen quite a few really great presentations (using Powerpoint and Prezi) to also convince me that they are valuable tools, in the right hands of course.

    I like your additional steps, however would you not say that it’s best to “Tell them what you’ve told them” after the Q&A?

  • Nialldevitt

    Yes I’d love to help make some good things happen! Thanks Elli & Happy New Year my Friend.

  • Hi Tori, 

    I started off my sales career as a cold caller and have managed to build a career around selling to this very day. Cold-calling may not be dead but sales people and sales trainers have for me it seems, done their very best to kill it! Ask prospects if they enjoy the process of being cold called, and I think it’s fair to say that the majority will say no, why: because cold-calling is usually a waste of their time and often just simply downright annoying. Prospects don’ care about your business, your products or your special offers. They care about their business, their products and their customers. So unless you’re in a position to have an intelligent conversation about what they actually care about, my advice is to not bother picking up that phone.We have to really understand that time is our greatest resource, both for our prospects and for ourselves. If you really want to make an impression and build a relationship, spend time wisely, researching your prospect, researching their business, researching their market and ensure that you have something of value to say when you pick up that phone.As an industry, and as sales leaders, we have to stop feeding young people in entry level sales roles,the drivel that passes for sales training/methodology. The majority of salespeople that enter into selling fail and the internet is now killing our industry slowly. The sales people that survive will be business experts and trusted advisers to their customers.    

  • Torihawthorne

    Call me crazy but to me Sales is an art form. We have been sold th ideathat sales is a job that anyone can do. When really its a job that needs time, care and patience. We need to train sales people effectively in research and development as well as selling. Commission only has a lot to answer for. It has created an army of what seems to me to be angry sales people, pushing for a sale as the sale is what is going to pay their wage. Companies pay for a research and Development, sales people are on the ground getting the feedback with every answer from prospects. You are right. Training is key, businesses need to put value into their sales by effectively training staff and sales agents/teams in methods that are proven to work. Not a whole lot of “go get ’em” cliches. Thanks for your comment Niall 🙂

  • Torihawthorne

    Thanks Amber 😉 I love business development. It means I am always learning. Even leaning things like how different industries react to different BD methods. And immediate response is so valuable too 😉 thanks again for comment. Tori

  • Elishbul

    Thanks Tori needed that. Especially this parting note.
    “This revelation also turns the idea that ‘cold-calling is dead’ right on
    its head… If you perceive cold-calling to be a way to make sales, then
    yes, you may be going to work everyday faced with a litany of No, no,
    nil, NO, and no… See this as the business development opportunity that
    it is and prepare yourself to make connections, learn about the
    person/company on the other end of the phone. ”

    Its about time a more human focus was put on Cold calling and in fact the phrase alone doesn’t do it justice- its about starting connections and worth remembering in a world that’s obsessed about social media when being a helpful voice on the line is probably one of the most social things you can do.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    That is so true Elish, I hate the term Cold-Calling, but actually love the task of doing it… I love connecting to people and sharing opportunities. I always smile when talking on the phone, an olden’ but golden rule 😉
    Social media has tried to take over that initial ‘cold call’ role but inevitably to take any relationship, business, customer, friendship or otherwise to a point of growing we must talk or meet.. I wish I could meet everyone I am connected to, maybe there is a tv programme there 😉

    Thank you for your comment 😉 T

  • Ruby

    Thanks for all the great ideas here.  I appreciate the experience behind what you are sharing.  Ruby

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Ruby,

    My pleasure to share… Only way to let people know it works 😉 Tori

  • Great post Tori, cold calling is not dead but I’ve always hated that phrase – randomly calling people and hoping for the best is not good for either the salesperson or the potential customer.  We approach people directly in our business as many of our customers are venturing online or onto social media for the very first time and wouldn’t have found us any other way. I would definitely say we more often get a positive than negative response when it’s handled correctly.  It’s about the value you’re offering them as opposed to the sale you’re clocking up for your company and it takes people skills and the ability to really listen to your prospect as opposed to robotic training to do the job effectively. 

  • I love this post, and in fact had a very interesting conversation about this very topic at open coffee during the week. Both our consensus was that relationship building adn nurturing leads to better quality sales and longer lasting business relationship. Another word we used was trust – not the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind but having prospected, conversed, building a relationship, that potential client may never actually buy, but they wil trust you enough to recommend or refer.
    Tori, Fantastic first post and a huge welcome to Bloggertone!

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Heya Debbi, thanks so much for your comment.. Its so true, we have to be well researched in who we are calling, why we are connecting and how to get the right message across.

    So true, its the value and them that’s important and not the sale… Its the cold calling term that makes it sound like such an awful task 🙁 I much prefer business development because that’s what it is 😉

    Thank you

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Oh wow, thank you Elaine *blushing*

    Its so true, I have never viewed my work as prospecting, but always relationship building. Trust and nurturing is key. We have to be open, honest and as helpful as we can as sales people, it’s never just about the sales we make today but the sales in our future business. The initial stages of the relationship build the foundations for a strong future, once we trust the foundations are there we should always have lasting business and referrals.

    Thank you again Elaine 


  • Thanks for your post Tori- good content.
    I’m putting a sales prsocess together at the moment and the above fits in nicely to that which I have in mind. How this system of generating leads is approached is all about mind set. If it’s seen as a way of dropping the net purely for the purpose of landing fish then it is not a substantial practice and relationships will not be firmly established. I want a relation ship with the fish:-) or rather the river the fish are in. The system you outline above is more appealing to me than just merely picking up the phone book and starting at A and working your way through it, which is what is generally perceived from the term “cold calling”.

    thanks again,


  • Derbhile

    You’ve sold me on cold calling. 

  • Tori Hawthorne

    WOW, Thanks so much for your comment Larry,

    I love your fish analogy, that’s it, the river is as important as the fish 😉 I am so glad my post has helped your plans.
    It takes time and it’s not a process that will bring immediate results but it will bring firm results and good Business Relationships.

    Good luck with your process, hope it goes well

    Tori 😉

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.


  • Puneet

    I have always used a friendly and a genuine conversation to “explore” and common areas of “interest” and that has got many coffee meetings. I like the way you have put it in a more transitioning manner from the traditional cold calling to the new age business development discussions.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there Puneet,
    Thank you for your comment. That is really it, we need to move on from the hard sell and build relationships, this way we have a firm foundation for a great business relationship

    Thanks again

  • Alagu Subramani

    Tori, your post helps one regain their confidence on cold calling. The honest approach works and not all customers are irate, they would also like to listen to what is out there in the market. There should not be a restricted timeframe within which you would like to complete the cold calling activity. It should be an ongoing practice. I am sure there might be questions about Gatekeepers not allowing you to speak to the right contact, there are different timings when you can call the contact and also crisp emails do get the customers attention. This is a really good post.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thank you Alagu,
    Its true, it is an ongoing process, we can try and set days to ‘do it’ but that time frame can change by the prospect dictating when they can be called… We have to be flexible and patient and polite to Gatekeepers ;)Thanks againTori

  • Hi Tori, thanks for your perspective. I still see cold calling as important as well. It really is a good way of getting out there as long as you’re not being “COLD”.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Myron,

    Me too. We need to connect as businesses and when we don’t know who we are calling the call is ‘Cold’. Mindset needs to change, it needs to be seen that we need to make these calls to grow and we need to receive these calls to know what or who is truly out there… 
    Thanks again Tori 😉

  • Francie

    I love this article and have posted on my FaceBook. Cold Calling is truly an OPPORTUNITY… a platinum opportunity to learn a great deal in a timely fashion. Thank you, Tori, for the GREAT article.

  • Great post Tori.

    I used to work for an IT training company that built it’s entire business from a database of 0 with cold calling. They had a great process though which involved cold calling to give something away for free, the thinking being that if you can’t give a company something for free, then there is no chance you will be able to sell them something.

    The follow up, post training day, was where as a sales person you were able to get some great feedback about the product being sold, the service delivery levels and obviously there was a super opportunity to build rapport, leading to goodwill and eventual further sales down the road. Not to mention a huge Database of the right contacts who you had marketing approval to contact.

  • Thanks, it’s true a little understanding and attention can avoid this kind of situation: 

  • Thanks aileen for a worthy write-up and making  clear  that how helpful worthy  “information”  can be 

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