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Make It Memorable

I don't know if the PhD's who study persuasion agree, but I believe the quest for persuasion starts with memorability. We can't convince someone to change their mind or their heart if something about our message doesn't stick in their brain.

I finally had the time to read Kathy Sierra's latest classic, A Crash Course in Learning Theory, that's causing a quite a stir--as of this afternoon 592 users had tagged the post. Lots of her advice applies to persuasion, because it applies to enhancing memorability.

Here's some of her tips for making a message memorable:

"Provide a meaningful benefit for each topic, in the form of 'why you should care about this' scenario." This is especially important in these days of decreasing attention.

"Use visuals." No big revelation here, but how many powerpoints do you see with gigantic blocks of text?

"Use redundancy to increase understanding and retention." Lather, rinse, repeat.

"Use conversational language." Kathy says that research suggests this to be a more effective writing style for memorability. Very cool.

"Use mistakes, failures, and counter-intuitive WTF?" aka, cognitive dissonance.

"Use the filmaker (and novelist) principle of SHOW-don't-TELL."

"Use 'chunking' to reduce cognitive overhead." Package information in easily remembered forms, then, like processed foods that are quickly broken down and absorbed, your brain can store the info in long-term memory.

"Use seduction, charm, mystery to build curiosity."

"Use a spiral model to keep users engaged." Think levels in a video game.

"Don't rob the learner of the opportunity to think!" Now, there's a novel concept in marketing.

"Use the 80/20 principle to reduce cognitive overload." Don't tell your audience everything, just the absolute essentials.

"Context matters."

"Emotion matters."

"Never underestimate the power of FUN to keep people engaged."

"Use stories." It's the oldest form of engagement.

"Use pacing and vary the parts of the brain you're exercising." Writers know that long sentences punctuated with short sentences keep interest much better than a paragraph full of long sentences or short sentences.

All these tips are backed up by Kathy's clear explanations, and she claims (though she doesn't elaborate), research. If you're into marketing or any other field that uses persuasion as a foundation, this one's a must read.

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