Numerous studies show we ignore, forget,
distort or misunderstand 75 percent of all
the words we hear.
How do we make sure technical and
emotional support help us get results?
A key to success lies in the science of
the brain and the ways in which adults
From Simply Hearing to Learning
Research is very clear. It doesn’t matter
how dynamic a presenter or how compelling the information, if you just sit
down and listen to someone, in approximately 48 hours it’s likely you will
remember only about 10 percent of what
you supposedly heard. In other words,
90 percent of the information, tips and
strategies will be forgotten in two days!
The simple act of hearing some-
thing is a far cry from actually learning
it. Think about all the fabulous speak-
ers who eagerly want to support us at
NSA meetings, workshops and conven-
tions. They spend endless hours
preparing and perfecting
their keynotes and break-
out sessions. Why is
it so difficult to turn
that information into
action, especially when
you see its value and
want to use it in your
business or per-
The answer is simple.
Like all adults, you aren’t “brain
wired” to retain most of the information you hear. Numerous studies show
we ignore, forget, distort or misunderstand 75 percent of all the words we
hear. To get those ideas and suggestions
to really stick, you need to do something with them immediately; you need
to pair listening with taking notes.
When it comes to memory, studies
show that the process of writing down
what you hear can significantly improve
the brain’s propensity to retain it.
That’s because the simple act of taking
notes has the effect of not only anchoring new information, but also boosting
your ability to remember what you
heard 48 hours later by 50 percent.
By taking notes, however, I don’t
mean creating volumes of pages like
you did in high school or college.
Instead, note taking needs to actively
engage the brain in key words, phrases
and images. This technique is referred
to as “laser note taking.”
Educators have leveraged this
research into powerful teaching and
learning techniques—one you can easily
use when support, either technical or
emotional, is available to you. Let’s
say you fall and have a terrible ankle
sprain. Is it heat or ice that you use first?
If, during a first-aid class you drew a
picture of ice on an ankle with a simple
“1st,” instead of writing paragraphs
about the advantages and disadvantages of heat, your memory would be
much clearer. A simple picture is worth
more than a thousand words.
Talk It Out
Because of how the human brain is
wired, it is not enough to hear and
then write it down to obtain meaning
and purpose. To really learn something and take advantage of technical
or emotional support, we must also
include true understanding, so that
we can act on information in a timely
For our brain to remember information and be able to retrieve and
use it 48 hours later, adults must
have or take the opportunity to talk
about it. The reason talking works so
well is that it literally moves information along neural pathways in
the brain, taking it from short-term
memory to mid-term memory to
long-term memory, and on its way to
long-term brain storage.
The simple act of talking to
another person about something
new is what allows ideas to “gel” in
someone’s mind. The fact is, talking
about tips, suggestions and “how tos”
can increase your ability to actually
use them by as much as 75 percent.
When you’re talking and people are
listening to you, they aren’t maximizing their learning—you are!
Wake Up Your Brain
Over the past 20 years, I have attended
numerous NSA seminars, conferences
and conventions. The information and
suggestions shared at those programs
have been extraordinary. Today, as I
look at my piles of files that contain so
much support, I realize that many great