Making Your Messages Memorable

Think of the Message Box as a framework. It allows you to focus on what’s most important and what will resonate with your audience. But once you’ve got a clear message, you’ll want to add flesh to those bones. How do you take the essential ideas and make them memorable and compelling to your audience?

Consider anecdotes, examples, metaphors, sound-bites, and facts that would resonate with your audience and can supplement and reinforce your messages. This is where some of the detail and data you took out of your Message Box can come back into play. As you prepare for your paper, presentation, meeting, or interview, here are some points to keep in mind to communicate effectively.

Listen To Your Audience

Effective communication requires listening and truly engaging with your audience in a two-way conversation. 

What questions did they ask? Which of your points really seemed to trigger a response?

Incorporate that feedback to make your messages clear, compelling, and relevant.

Support your message with data—but not too much!

Remember, the human brain can only take in three to five pieces of information at a time. Make sure you’re picking the key pieces of data for your audience!

Limit the use of numbers and statistics

Are there one or two important numbers for your audience to know, or that will help them grasp your point? If so, include them—but only one or two!

Compare concepts with things people can relate to

Metaphors and analogies can be effective tools for helping people understand difficult concepts. Test your metaphors in advance to make sure they convey what you’re trying to get across.

Use accessible language

Double-check that you’re not relying on jargon and words that are familiar to scientists in your discipline, but that wouldn’t make sense to family members or neighbors.

Lead with what you know

Uncertainty exists, and you need to be honest about the limits of your research and scientific understanding, but don’t bury the message in caveats.

Use specific examples

An example or two helps to ground your points and provide context (but you only need one or two, unless you’re asked for more). Make your examples relevant to your audience and quick to explain and grasp.

Group exercise

A great way to get feedback on your Message Box is to form an on-site study group with other scientists. Groups of three to five people work well. Give each person 2-3 minutes to present their Message Box, and then have the group give concrete, constructive feedback for five minutes or so. If you’re in the same field as others in your group, try to listen as if you were unfamiliar with the topics at hand, and provide feedback with that lens in mind. After receiving feedback, you can revise your Message Box to make your messages even clearer and more compelling.

Practice, practice, practice

More from the Message Box


View Initial and Refined Message Box examples from Dr. Kathy Zeller


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Discover how researchers from different fields use the Message Box to communicate with a variety of audiences


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