On the seventh day of Christmas…

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

…seven facts to remember.

seventh day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven facts to remember. A seminal paper in psychology by Arthur Miller has suggested that seven is the magic number of new memory items that can be retained from a presentation (plus or minus 2!). This is essential when one considers the vast numbers of data items delivered in a standard presentation. Most importantly this small number is retained at the expense of all others and only if a strong effort is made to do so. Without this effort, probably only three facts are retained.

The value of science in presentation skills is questioned frequently. There are multiple confounding factors in the research undertaken and the challenge of quantitative research in such a complex issue leads to debate. The simple challenge is to remember the last presentation that you attended and list the seven new facts or items you have retained. If there were confounding factors then the three facts that might be retained without positive steps are probably more easily identified. No?

Presentations cannot and should not be simply lists of data. It does not work. Refusing to accept this is the basis of so much wasted time and effort and resources. Consider the magic number seven for data that might be retained and utilise this- one key message, three main points, and three sub-points. The best presentation ever is not the one with the most information but the one that is memorable.

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