Richard John takes us on a memory learning curve this month
Let’s talk about the work of Ebbinghaus. No, it’s not a range of Swedish furniture. He was a 19th century psychologist who made breakthroughs in memory research.
As he’s been dead over a century, you might wonder why it’s relevant. Well, he was famous for – among other things – identifying the ‘forgetting curve’, the exponential loss of information that starts within 20 minutes of learning it.
Relevant for you? Well, if you are involved in the content side of events, absolutely. You see Hermann (yeah, we’re on first name terms) came up with a variety of solutions to help address the forgetting issue, one of the simplest being repetition.
Just a quick prompt, Ebbinghaus discovered, is all it takes to drive the key messages from the short to the long-term memory areas of your brain.
He had a host of other knowledge assimilation tricks, too, most of which have stood the test of time.
So, if you’re running a business event, asking your speakers to provide you with their three key messages, which the chair then recounts at regular intervals, will make a big difference. Asking your speakers to connect with each other pre-event, to share their themes so that there is a story arc is far more powerful than a series of disconnected presentations, no matter how good each is individually.
Think about your favourite TV programme, which starts with a quick summary of what happened last week. And then imagine each of your speakers referencing their predecessor like that.
And utilising the wealth of tools now available to remind delegates post-event of what they learned is a commonsense but underused strategy. Get on the case.
And, if you’re on the production side of the business, Hermann’s work is still relevant. If you’ve shown a client round your beautiful venue, there’s a good chance, by the time they leave, that they’ve forgotten how lovely the first room was. Snap a selfie and email it to them as part of the first stage of your follow-up campaign.
Or maybe you provide catering – again your clients are going to forget how great your food was. That’s just a function of the brain, so sensory reminders, such as samples and photos, can work well to keep you in the frame. And, if you work for one of the wealth of new event technology providers, a regular flow of case studies and testimonials can change the perception from ‘that’s interesting’ to ‘we must have it’.
More than a century on from his passing, there is a wealth of ideas that you can apply from Ebbinghaus’ work. Go on, let HB put some lead in your corporate pencil for 2016. Given that he was born in the Rhine town of Barmen, it’s clear to me why he knew about hospitality service.