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Take account of people’s reticular activating system to liven your presentations
By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com
Have you heard of a person’s reticular activating system? Their whaaat???
If you are presenting educational or informational material to an audience, you can use each person’s reticular activating system to improve retention of the material. The reticular activating system (RAS) is the part of a person’s brain that has the role of attention maker or attention breaker.
When a learning environment becomes routine, ie familiar and repetitive, the RAS takes on the role of attention breaker. It filters the incoming information, decides there is nothing significant to pay attention to, and allows the listener to switch off – to daydream, to think about unrelated things, or even (aagh!) to fall asleep.
When the environment changes from the familiar, the RAS becomes the attention maker. It directs the learner’s brain to consciously pay attention.
The RAS prevents a person from suffering information overload. It filters out the routine from your conscious mind. An example is your daily travel to work. You probably don’t even remember your trip to work yesterday because your RAS allowed your active mind to move to other things.
The RAS also works the other way. For instance, if you buy a certain make and model of car, in the early stages of ownership the RAS will direct you to notice every other car on the road that is the same make and model as yours. Also, the RAS acts to wake you in the middle of the night from a deep sleep to enable you to go to the bathroom.
The importance to presenters is clear. When you want learners to pay close attention to important information, you have to catch the attention of the RAS by changing something in the environment.
Firstly, you can change your teaching methods:
You can change the activities you use to further involve the audience:
You can also change the physical environment of the venue:
About the Author
Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.
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