4 Tips that will Make your Presentations, Talks, and Sermons Sticky

If you are a pastor or a leader, you deliver sermons, talks, and presentations. And you probably spend significant time preparing them. So it makes sense to deliver them in ways that make them sticky, that is, stick in the listeners’ minds and hearts. In this post I share some science based insight to consider as you prepare your talks and sermons.

Tips to improve how much people remember your sermons and talks:

  1. Remember how much of the listener’s brain is dedicated toward visual processing.
    • God created our brains so that about 20% is dedicated solely to visual processing (the back part called the occipital lobe). Add to that the parts of the brain that indirectly deal with visual processing and almost 50% of our brain is dedicated to the visual directly or indirectly. So, a lot of brain real estate is ready for visual stimulation. This insight alone should make us think how to maximize the visual in our talks and presentations.
  2. Use color in your power point presentations as much as possible.
    • If you’ve ever wondered why Facebook and Twitter use blue, well, the brain really likes the color blue. Color evokes emotion and feelings. Color improves retention and enhances learning.
  3. Use pictures over text.
    • The old adage a picture is worth a thousand words is based in neuroscience because of number 1 above. Pictures are easier on the brain than words are. It takes twice as long to process and recognize words as it does to do the same for pictures. One study found that we can process pictures 10 times faster than blinking the eye.
    • And faces…God hard-wired our brains to respond to faces. When we were born the first thing we focused on were faces. And a specific part of the brain is dedicated to facial recognition.
    • If you only hear a piece of information, a few days later you will only remember 10% of it. But if a picture were added to it, your recall increases to 65%. And you can remember up to 2,000 pictures with little learning. That’s not true with learning words. So, use pictures in you presentation.
  4. When you must use text, use short words.
    • We’ve all probably endured someone deliver a talk with powerpoints filled with words. And you probably forgot everything. Why is that a problem? It’s because we actually process words we see using the auditory brain pathways. So, when you are listening to someone give a talk, we’re actually having to use our auditory pathways doubly, to listen and to process the words from the screen. We’re actually switching our attention back and forth.
    • So, do you eliminate words from your presentations? No. But when you do use them, use short ones, draw attention to them with circles, arrows, etc., and be consistent with each slide (don’t have a different layout each time).

It’s amazing how a few tweaks in your talks can improve listener retention.

What have you done that has helped your listener retain more of what you say?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This is such great advice, Charles. When I started doing presentations for my MOL I read a really excellent book on Visual presentations and followed the advice verbatim. It works!

  • thanks Alison!

  • Jim Winning

    is it me – or is there only 4 points?

  • Jim Winning

    I should have also said….good points

  • bwp98h

    Charles, thanks for this! Could you share an example of a presentation that does this – replacing words with pictures – effectively? Maybe you could post one of your slide decks where you did this?

    • send me your email and I will be glad to send you what I did in a recent sermon at chucks9886 at gmail.com