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The Doorway Effect as the Argument for Consistency

Your Message Will Resonate Better Against a Boring, Consistent Backdrop.

Maybe this has happened to you…. You get up from your desk to go to the other room to get something, but once you get there, you have completely forgotten why you are there. Sometimes you even need to go back to your original position when you had the first thought, in order to remember.

This is what scientists call the “doorway effect”. Our brains are in fact hard wired to forget things that are not needed, in order to make space for new things. In the case of physical movement, passing from one room into another, this effect may even be a key survival mechanism. But the doorway effect also happens on the screen (like in a video game) or when reading or watching different things.

Interesting though, is that when we pass through a doorway within the SAME ENVIRONMENT, we can often recall easier. The doorway effect is only pronounced when we move into a new environment, or transition from one specific screen or design to another.

This is the example I like to use when speaking about CONSISTENCY in design and messaging.

For example, let’s discuss a slide presentation you’ve created to convince someone to do something. Many people like to animate slides with many different colors or icons. Or they use different size fonts, thinking that these bigger and bolder messages will highlight their message better.

In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Your message will stand out better, and be remembered, when it is repeated against a boring, consistent backdrop. The consistency of the presentation aesthetics will underline your message, by avoiding the doorway effect.

There are actually some scientifically proven methods that are used to keep people’s attention and make your presentation more memorable.

  1. Be consistent in design and layout. Make sure that your title and text are in same places and use the same size font. Highlight your key messages in the same manner. Place your visuals at about the same size and in the same spot. Use the same type of bullet points.

  2. Use more white space - on every slide. This gives your key message some air to make it float. It also ensures that you are forced to edit your text for brevity.

  3. Focus. Highlight 1-2 key messages per slide and make the valuable information stand out at top or bottom. Bullet points are good for this, keeping you focused on meaning and not text.

  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat… Rather than saying the same thing (for example, your company’s USP) differently throughout the presentation, you should be repeating the same message, in the same words, again and again.

  5. Avoid icons. This adds too many foreign elements that distract the readers attention.

  6. Ban buzzwords. They are evil and only cause confusion. If you cannot explain your message using simple, common language, then you should not be communicating.

  7. Tell a story. By this I mean structure your presentation to offer a beginning, middle and end. Creating a few different sections to your presentation will help with this.

  8. Use visuals. When you include a visual on every slide, it sneaks into the reader’s subconscious, adding to the message. Visuals also KEEP THE READER ON THE PAGE longer so they actually read your bullet points.

Reading a presentation should be a pleasant discovery and simple to understand. When I move from one slide to the next, I should know where I am and not be subject to the doorway effect. If I can ignore the presentation itself, I am more likely to understand and remember the message.

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