Improving Your Memory and Performance
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    Improving Your Memory and Performance

    I am always on the look out for new research insights into how to improve our memory and performance. Presenters and meeting facilitators can certainly benefit from improved memory capabilities. What follows is a quick summary of three research programs that provide useful tips for all communicators.

    “I think I can.” Research conducted by the BBC Lab in the UK in conjunction with Dr. Andrew Lane found that people who use motivational self-talk, such as “I can do better next time,” actually do improve their performance. In essence, becoming your own motivational speaker increases the likelihood of improvement. Of course, this requires that you take time to think about improving our communication and reflect upon the steps you can/need to take to make the improvement. Many either ruminate on the negative outcomes of your presentations and meetings or you immediately jump ahead to whatever is next. The findings of this research dove tail nicely with a larger body of research on positive affirmations.

    “This is to that…” When presenting or leading a meeting, you have a lot of things to keep in mind — Your communication structure, the specific points you intend to make, your opening and closing, etc. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have cues or reminders to aid in recalling what you need to remember when you need to remember it? Research from the labs of Todd Rogers (Harvard) and Katherine Milkman (Wharton) provides just the help that is needed. It turns out that “reminders through association” aid in remembering and following through. If through practice and pairing, you create an association between an image on a slide, a place in the room, or a particular time on the clock and your specific content, you are more likely to remember it as well as be able to communicate it.

    “Feel good to remember well.” Research by Javier Oyarzun demonstrates that your brain is better at encoding and recalling memories associated with positive emotions. If you can associate some positive feelings with your learning of new materials, you are more likely to remember it. For example, when preparing a presentation, you can focus on the excitement you feel at sharing your topic. If you are running a meeting, focus on the potential positive results as your prepare the agenda and content. In these ways, you improve your likelihood of remembering what you want to say, and you’ll be more confident because an added bonus of being positive is that it blunts anxiety that results from negative concerns about communicating.

    Taken together, these recent research tips on enhancing memory and performance will hopefully help you as you prepare, practice, and deliver your upcoming presentations and meetings.