Master Your Message Blog

Pictures are Memorable; Words are Not

Here’s my first rule relating back to my cover article of earlier this week.

We don’t think in words; we think in pictures. It’s images that engage minds.

Painting from cave man daysThink back to caveman days (not personal memories—although it’s been suggested I could relate my own stories of that era—but rather what you know about how they communicated). The walls of their caves were filled with rudimentary visual images of their exploits. They shared stories in pictures.

Of course, they hadn’t invented language yet and so this was the only means they had to share their knowledge. But language is only a set of symbols that represent pictures in our mind.

Take this example: If I were to ask you to think of an “ice cream cone,” it’s pretty likely you won’t think of the words or letters. Rather, you immediately conjure up a visual image of an ice cream cone.

You see, when we read a word, we actually see it as a whole bunch of little tiny pictures. We look for features like horizontal or vertical lines, rounded corners, etc. and then we think back to our “brain library” of letter images and match it up to what we’ve stored from the past.

Over time, we get pretty darned good at this process and it takes us milliseconds to do all the calculations and read a sentence. As a result, reading text is highly taxing on our brains. Text presentations are simply not very effective for transferring information.

Whether we read or hear words, the impact is much the same. In fact, if information is presented orally, we remember about 10% three days later. However, if a picture is added in, that figure goes up to 65%. We don’t remember words. What was the last series of word screens you remember from a presentation? Exactly!

The point? Keep your screen text to a bare minimum and use powerful words (or phrases of no more than three to four words) that conjure up powerful images in the minds of your audience.

Do you have stories of presentations you’ve done that have been successful due to powerful pictures?

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