In the hit film Memento, the protagonist uses an intricate series of tattoos to keep track of his progress in hunting down the criminals who attacked him, robbing him of his short-term memory. You might not be fighting crime, but by understanding how short-term memory functions, you can create killer Microsoft PowerPoint presentations that will stick with viewers.
Forget me not
Short-term memory — also called working memory — actively holds information in our minds so that we can perform verbal and nonverbal tasks such as reasoning and comprehension. Our working memory also makes this information available for further processing.
In general, this short-term working memory has a limited capacity. By breaking information into chunks, we can improve the chances that our message will be remembered. Keep it simple:
- seven digits
- six letters
- five words
- three phrases
Less is more
What does this mean for your presentation? Format your slides with small chunks in mind, and viewers are much more likely to retain the information you present. For best understanding and retention, Digital Dazzle suggests that you limit each PowerPoint slide to these maximums:
- Five bullets of one word each
- Three bullets, each consisting of one phrase or sentence that does not exceed one line
Need to put more bullets on a slide? Use animation to build the list. Just be sure to reveal no more than these recommended maximums at each step.