The Science Behind Presentation Skills

Whether you are a CEO presenting to investors, a sales executive talking to a client, or a manager asking for a budget approval, the fundamental goal of any presentation is the same: to persuade your audience to take action. The ability to convince and persuade an audience is the mark of a successful presenter, but what actually makes a presentation more or less persuasive? The fact is, crafting the perfect presentation requires more than just fancy slides. There is a science behind every great presentation. Let’s take a closer look at some of the psychology and brain science that makes presentations persuasive. 

Visual Aids Really Make a Difference

Studies have shown that people retain 80% of what they see, 20% of what they read, and 10% of what they hear. Given these statistics, it makes sense that every presentation should include engaging visuals. The majority of our brain capacity is devoted to capturing and processing visual information, which is why our decision-making capabilities are highly influenced by images. So, what does this mean for presentations? It means that you should keep text to a minimum and complement what you are saying with relevant imagery instead. 

Body Language Helps You Connect

Dr. Albert Mehrabian is known for breaking down human communication into 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. While some may disagree slightly with those exact percentages, we can all agree that nonverbal communication dominates spoken words. That’s what expert presenters focus heavily on not only what they say, but how they say it. They know that standing in a power pose decreases the stress hormone cortisol by 25%. Smiling helps your audience perceive you as a leader, and eye contact helps you build a personal connection. Nonverbal communication is so important so it should definitely be used to enhance your next presentation. 

Stories are Twice as Persuasive as Data

Everyone loves a good story, and now we know why! Research has shown again and again that storytelling is one of the best ways to persuade people to take action. Think about those charity pamphlets that you read. You may be more compelled to donate money if you read the story of a 6 year old child whose life will be impacted by a donation as opposed to stats and figures. Presenters who infuse storytelling are far more likely to resonate with listeners than those who present facts and data. 

The Rule of Three

The Rule of 3 is a writing principle that suggests that your brain is more likely to remember things that are grouped into 3’s. Our brains are always looking for patterns, and 3 seems to be the magic number. Think of things in our culture that utilize this principle: “stop, drop, roll,” “9-1-1,” and “beginning, middle, and end.” If you divide your message into 3 main points, your audience is more likely to walk away remembering what you said because we are attuned to remembering things in 3’s.