What makes a message memorable?
Updated: Sep 20
As communicators, we won’t be effective if an audience can’t remember our message. Being memorable is essential to successful communication.
I recently surveyed food and nutrition professionals about which characteristics of effective communication they needed to work on most. They listed being memorable in a tie for third place with being compelling. Listed in first and second place were being concise and clear. You can read about all 10 characteristics here: https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/single-post/2019/04/12/How-do-you-craft-words-that-work
What do we know about memory and how can we use that knowledge to make communication memorable?
Less is more:
The capacity of our working (or short-term) memory is limited. People can only take in and process a relatively small amount of visual and auditory stimulation at a given time. Communicators will be memorable, and therefore more successful, when the amount of information provided is prioritized and minimized. Emphasize what people need to know and eliminate what may be nice to know.
Make it meaningful:
To store new information in long-term memory, people need to connect it to what they already know and understand. Use words, images, and examples that are meaningful to the audience. Make sure they understand the message. Clarify until it is understood.
Humans are said to be feeling creatures who think more than thinking creatures who feel. When a message resonates with a person’s emotions, it is more memorable than when it is simply informative. A proven method for eliciting emotion is through story. Does your message tell a story?
Look at the image above. Which apple stands out? This is known as the Von Restorff Effect – when something is presented in a way that makes us take notice because it is different from what is around it. Providing contrast includes varying your delivery approach such as adding humor, a demonstration, a video, or an interactive activity. It can also be as simple as effectively using vocal variety: slowing down, stopping to pause, speaking louder or softer. How can your message stand out from the thousands your audience sees and hears on a daily basis? Dare to be different.
Say it first, and last:
Research indicates that people remember what is said first and last more than what is in the middle. This is referred to as the primacy and recency effects. Therefore, make your opening and closing statements count. Grab your audience’s attention from the beginning and drive your point home when you wrap up. Using a technique that ties your opening and closing together also enhances memory.
Say it again:
Repetition is a powerful memory device. If something bears saying, it bears repeating. Say it again.
Make it personal:
What people remember most is what is personally useful. If your message meets a need or solves a problem, the audience will be motivated to pay attention, learn, and apply it to their lives. When someone puts a message into practice, it is remembered. Find out what your audience needs and deliver a message that empowers them to solve problems.
Bring to mind a message you read or heard today. What made it memorable? Did it meet one or more of these characteristics? Which ones?
How can you make your messages memorable? Which characteristics of memorable messages do you need to employ more often?
“You will only be remembered for two things: the problems you solve or the ones you create.”
~ Mike Murdock
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