12+ ways to be remembered when you present (F!RST framework – part 3)

Does your talk’s goal involve your audience taking action afterwards? I hope so, because only by people acting on your talk can it be truly effective.

To act though, your audience needs to remember afterwards:

  • What they should do
  • Why they should do it – that is, how important it is to them.

This post helps you make those 2 aspects of your presentation vividly memorable. And if you happen to have read the overview of the F!RST framework (of which this is part 3), you’ll already know about the acronym “SMS”, which represents the 3 types of tips in this post.

Here, SMS stands for:

Below, you’ll see how those 3 types of tips help make your talk far more memorable.


Use structureScroll to Contents ↑

Use the
Rule of Three

One of the most memorable ways to structure your talk is to use the Rule of Three, which you can do in these 3 ways:

  • Use a 3-part structure, like in these 3 options (which beat the old advice to “Tell them what you’re going to tell them…”).
  • In the body of your talk, stick to just the top 3 points where you can, so your message is easy for people to take in.
  • To reinforce it, repeat your main message 3 times in a row (ideally in just 3 syll-ables each). For greatest impact, it’s best to do that at crucial times in your talk – like when you transition between sections, and at the end.

If you can, also base each section of your talk on an audience question or issue. That way, people can more easily link each section to their established mental “hooks”, so your talk will be far more meaningful and memorable than if you framed the topic from your viewpoint.

Give your talk a striking sense of wholeness and meaning

The other powerful structural technique you should strongly consider is circling back to your opening theme at the end of your presentation (called a call-back). That’ll give your talk a striking sense of wholeness and meaning, which is far more likely to make a lasting impression on people.

As well as making your presentation easier for your audience to remember, structure also makes it:

  • More understandable
  • More enjoyable
  • More persuasive
  • Easier for you to remember
  • Easier for your audience to pass on to other people.
    (More on that in the FiRST framework’s part 5, on how to get Talked about)

You’ve good reason to emphasise your structure

So with those 5 awesome benefits, you’ve good reason to emphasise your structure. You can do that in varied ways, using at least 3 aspects of your delivery:

  • Vocals – Try these 4 verbal and vocal techniques to end each section:
    • Sum up its key takeaway.
    • Say how the section relates to the next.
    • Pause for 3 seconds or more to make a welcome break.
    • To start your next section, change your pitch, pace or volume.
  • Body language – Move somewhere else on the stage when you start each section.
  • Visual aids – Even if you don’t use other slides, start each section with a title slide, like Nancy Duarte does in this 2½-minute video:


Use mnemonicsScroll to Contents ↑

In this context, a mnemonic is just something that:

  • is highly memorable, and
  • closely relates to 1 of your main points.

So when people recall your mnemonic, they’ll more easily recall your main point too. We’ll look at 3 types of mnemonics:


Vivid visuals

To drive home your message, I recommend you use vivid visuals like these:

  • Very simple diagrams (to show relationships or processes)
  • Iconic photos (to stand for concepts) – like the picture of string tied round a finger at the top of this post
  • Your logo alone on a black slide (if your main point is to buy from or remember your company)


STAR moments

Nancy Duarte used this acronym to mean Something They’ll Always Remember. These moments are dramatic effects that haunt your audience. For instance, you might:

Link your STAR moment clearly to your main point

Be sure to link your STAR moment clearly to your main point, so the moment helps people remember the crux of your talk – and so no one thinks you pulled a pointless stunt!


Word patterns

What I call “word patterns” are simple ways you can phrase key parts of your message, and they’re specifically designed to make your words stick in people’s heads.

Word patterns include:

Let’s look at each of those in turn

Acronyms are words formed from initials. For instance, to remind presenters of 3 ways they can focus people’s attention, I use the acronym Aim, which stands for:

  • A    Answer people’s key question
  •  i     Intrigue people
  • m   Minimise “blur”

Alliteration is a series of words (ideally 3 of them) that all start with the same letter. That gives them a catchy, rhythmic sound. For instance, if you’re presenting about how to write well, you might say good writing is:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Compelling

Letter series are rarely used in public speaking, so as a result, they can be very memorable. Here’s one example: To make your talks’ titles audience-centred, include these elements:

  1. Action
  2. Benefit
  3. Conversation
  4. Digit

Rhymes are rarely used by speakers, too, so if you use one, your words should stick in people’s minds all the more. As an example, some well-known content that is presented in a rhyming form is Tuckman’s stages of group development:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

Another example of rhyme is this advice I give to webinar presenters:

  • Invest your time in preparing well
  • Test your setup
  • Jest if something does go wrong – to show you’re not fazed by it

Why do rhymes help? Well, according to bestselling author Dan Pink in his 30-second video below:

“Rhymes increase what cognitive scientists call ‘processing fluency’
– they go down easier. When processing fluency increases,
people understand things more deeply, and your idea sticks”
Dan Pink

Video thumbnail for Dan Pink's video


Use stickinessScroll to Contents ↑

“Stickiness” refers to why some ideas stick around yet others die, and it comes from the book Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath. The book uses the acronym “SUCCES” to stand for the 6 traits of sticky messages, namely that they’re:

  • Simple (S) – You should be able to sum up your talk in just 1 sentence, mentioning the aspect of your topic that most impacts your audience. After all, as communication coach Dianna Booher once said:

    “If you can’t write your message in a sentence,
    you can’t say it in an hour”
    Dianna Booher

    To help simplify your content to just the bare essentials, ask yourself:

    “If my audience only remembers
    one thing from my talk, what should it be?”

    For 8 other specific ways to help keep your presentation simple, see the post called Minimise “blur”.

  • Unexpected (U) – To surprise people, use uncommon techniques like these 4:
  • 3 ways to make your talk more concrete

    Concrete (C) – You can use these 3 ways to make your talk more concrete (meaning real and distinct):

    • Get your audience to take ownership, like by drawing their own simple diagram of your key message, or by handwriting their own notes, or by using one of the other 3 tips suggested in this great post by Nick Morgan.
    • Give tangible examples that are meaningful to your audience. For instance, if you’re talking to business owners about how much they could save by using your software, you might say:

      “If your results are like one of our current clients’,
      your annual savings could be over 3 times your
      average user’s salary”

    • Use vivid, sensory language. For instance, in a story, you might say:

      “His face turned beetroot purple, and his fists
      clenched like hammers”

  • Credible (C) – To add both weight and variety to your presentation, cite a trustworthy source. After all, I’m referring to a best-selling book! Or you might quote a well-known person or the press.
  • Emotional (E) – Be unlike most business or academic presenters: Appeal to your audience’s feelings. As Carl Buechner famously once remarked:

    “They may forget what you said,
    but they will never forget
    how you made them feel”
    Carl Buechner

    4 tips for making your talk more emotive

    Here are 4 tips for making your talk more emotive:

    • Start strong, by which I mean hooking into people’s emotions right from the opening line of your talk.
    • Ask people to recall a feeling that’s closely linked to your point. For instance, if you’re talking about service, ask how they felt one time when they received superb customer care.
    • When making a point about your topic’s effect on people, show a big photo of a person’s face.
    • Rather than showing a spreadsheet (as poor speakers do),
      show just one of the key numbers by itself in a huge font, to drive it home.
  • Stories make you come across as a pro

    Stories (S) – As well as making you come across as a pro, talking about your experiences (or about customers or colleagues) in the form of stories makes you far more memorable.

    That’s because, as presentation expert Jim Endicott explains, stories are processed by the brain’s right side, which handles long-term memory and motivation. (In contrast, text and data are processed by the left side, which handles short-term memory. No wonder most slideshows are so forgettable!)

    As I mentioned in the structure section near the top of this post, also consider circling back to the start of your story at its end.


Next stepsScroll to Contents ↑

So to make your presentations unforgettable, be sure to use structure, mnemonics and stickiness!

You might also like to see how this post fits into the F!RST framework for presenting. From that link, you can find out about the other parts of the framework, like how to focus people’s attention when you speak.


Your turnScroll to Contents ↑

I’d love to hear your thoughts. With your own talks, how do you make them more memorable for your audience – or even for you?


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2 thoughts on “12+ ways to be remembered when you present (F!RST framework – part 3)

  1. Craig, these are all excellent tips, particularly the point about being clear on the one key point you want the audience to remember. In my own work, I interviewed over 70 leaders. They emphasize the importance of a single, simple, short message (the three Ss). Most people try to pack too much information into a presentation or briefing. It doesn’t work and the effectiveness is lost. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of clarity.


    • Thanks for taking time to comment, Shelley.

      I like the concept of the 3 Ss. As I wrote above, starting a series of words with the same letter makes a concept much easier to remember – as does the Rule of Three! So to use both makes a powerful combination.

      Thanks for your contribution, and I hope to see you around the blog again.


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