Using cognitive psychology to improve presentations

March 27, 2014 – by Kelly

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Saracin

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Saracin

At Sylver, we’re always trying to think differently about presentations to improve the quality and accessibility of information. As a researcher, it’s easy to get excited about sharing all of your awesome results. It’s also easy to forget that presentation attendees aren’t quite as familiar with your work. This can lead to information overload, especially when you’re working with a large data set.

While cognitive psychology has much more to offer in terms of making sure an audience gets the most out of your research, I’ve included three quick examples that can improve the flow, understanding and overall quality of a presentation.

*It’s easier to build on previous knowledge than start from scratch. Try to connect new information to what’s already known. This will give the audience a starting point to build from rather than having to try to figure out exactly how this makes sense as it relates to their questions.

*Think about cognitive load. People can only work with about seven pieces of information and four connections at a time. Asking an audience to think about more than this dramatically impacts understanding of the concept you’re trying to convey. It results in information overload.

*Use schemas to frame your story. There are many different ways to describe a schema, but one of the most useful in this context is a visualization of how ideas connect. Something as simple as writing down the main ideas and using lines to symbolize how they relate can emphasize the most interesting results you have to share. This can also help to guide how a viewer codes the information into memory, making it easier to remember later and understand.

Bottom line, resist the “data dump” urge when sitting down to create your next presentation. Viewing what to share and how to share through a cognitive psychology lens will help you to avoid information overload and contribute to better understanding and retention of the information shared.



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Whole Mart Quickie

March 18, 2014 – by Matthew

wholemartMillennials are a core focus of Sylver Consulting’s current beverage/food research. One aspect of this group is the struggle between where Millennials are now (professionally/personally) and where they aspire to be. A small observation from Walmart renders this tension visible.

Monday afternoon, on the way home from work, I stopped at the Walmart Express located on Chicago Avenue to pick up an online purchase. As I waited by register 8 for my delivery to be retrieved from the stock room, there was a millennial male checking out groceries at register 4. As the cashier finished bagging his purchase, the millennial removed a brown paper Whole Foods bag from his trendy backpack, placed his smoke gray plastic Walmart bag into it, and exited the store quickly into the crowded flow of late afternoon downtown pedestrian traffic — anonymous, but cool.  

To be fair, had my box’s dimensions been a bit smaller, I would have carried it in my backpack. 

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Sylver’s Adriano Braun Galvao Teaches Design Thinking at CEDIM in Mexico

July 3, 2013 – by Admin


Sylver Consulting’s Vice President, Adriano Braun Galvao, recently traveled to CEDIM in Monterrey, Mexico to teach the Innovation and Implementation module as part of their Certificate in Innovation and Design Thinking (CID) program. The CID is a “five-month program focused on the design implementation of innovative and sustainable solutions that meet concrete needs of world users.”

Over the course of the program, students work on a wide range of projects. Some of those projects included:

- Developing a workspace solution to foster creativity and productivity
- Creating a reward system to alleviate stress in the workplace
- Helping indigenous people share and preserve their culture
- Helping dropouts re-engage with their community and workplaces

While teaching the fifth and final module of the CID course, Adriano shared his expertise with the students in an information-rich and hands on manner, covering concepts of idea selection, value proposition development, business model generation, concept refinement, and the development of an innovation implementation plan. Adriano’s experience in helping shape implementation strategies here at Sylver and experience in leading a number of strategic, future thinking efforts for the Brazilian government made him ideally suited as the teacher for this final module.

To view the full press release, click here.

To read more about CEDIM, click here

Click here to check out CEDIM’s Photo Album from this year’s graduation! 

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Sylver and Mozilla Deliver Engaging Presentation at Northwestern University

May 22, 2013 – by Admin

Sylver Consulting’s President, Brianna Sylver, and Mozilla’s User Experience Research Manager, Cori Schauer, recently shared background and insights from their collaborative work together in Latin America at Northwestern’s Segal Design Institute. Their presentation, “Designing for the Next 2 Billion Users: Firefox OS Focuses on Emerging Markets,” showcased how their collaborative efforts to understand the values, aspirations and mobile behaviors of the Brazilian Middle Class consumer impacted the development of Mozilla’s new Firefox OS device.

You can view the entire presentation below or by clicking HERE

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What Would You Prefer To Be Called When It Comes To Your Race +/or Ethnicity?

May 3, 2013 – by Rebecca

A few years ago, I had the privilege of working on the U.S. Census Bureau communications study in advance of the 2010 Census. The Census Bureau and its agency of record, Draftfcb, wanted to test some communications concepts among various racial, ethnic and language-based segments of the population. So, the research team I was on conducted two waves of focus groups all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico, recording our participants’ responses to a variety of TV animatics and print ads.

When you’re working on a study like this, you can’t help but think about how people are being asked to slap some kind of “label” on themselves that might not fit within their own frames of reference. The 2010 Census form increased the number of options you could use to describe your racial and ethnic background and included some country-specific write-in boxes, so it wasn’t quite as narrowly structured as it had been in years past.

Question 5 from the 2010 Census asked about Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origins, which are considered “ethnicities” rather than races.


Question 6 asked about racial background, which seemed to me like a strange mishmash of skin colors, regions and countries.

Fast forward a few years to 2013, when we have a new Argentinian pope in the Vatican (does he think of himself as Latino?), a second-term president who’s black father was from Kenya and white mother from Kansas (does he think of himself as biracial?) and new immigration legislation on the table which will could affect multitudes of future hyphenated ”______-Americans” (should you insert your country or region of origin here and, if so, which one?).

At Sylver, we wanted to find out more about what the typical individual living in America would prefer to be called if someone asked, so we conducted a simple nationwide qualitative study. Here were some of our findings:

- Participants gave us a very full range of responses, with no clear consensus of opinion.That wasn’t what we were hoping for, but it’s still a finding.

- While some wanted to be referred to by color (black or white), because that is simply how they view themselves, just about as many others preferred a hyphenated or unhyphenated “______+ American” descriptor (e.g., European-American, Pakistani American). For some in this latter camp, they said adding their region or country helped them feel connected to their heritage. Still others in our study said they wanted to think of themselves as just plain “American” or even “human.”

- “Black” and “white” as descriptors were viewed by some as positive or straightforward and by others as quite negative and not very precise.

Here is one of the questions we asked and a few verbatim responses from our participants:

Q: Thinking about the U.S. Census Bureau classifications (which we had exposed in previous questions) — but not limiting yourself to them — how would you personally prefer to describe your racial, ethnic and/or cultural background if someone asked you about it?

In the comment box, please finish this sentence …. “I would prefer to be called ___________ because _________________________.”


“I would prefer to be called mixed race because of my Japanese and Mexican heritage, even though I am mostly white.”

“I would prefer to be called Caucasian because that has fewer negative overtones (e.g., “white supremacist”) than “white.”

“American … it’s complicated.”

“Black — it gets right to the point and makes it clear to everyone.”

“Human because we all originated from the same place.”

So, as you can see, it is complicated. Bottom line, there is no doubt that “labels” such as these can be useful in census taking, research, market segmentation, advertising and communications, journalism and so on. But as a society, we should also be conscious that labels don’t always resonate and can potentially alienate individuals.

One last note … National Public Radio recently launched a new blog about race, ethnicity and culture in America called “Code Switch,” so we’ll be keeping an eye on that. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on this topic? We welcome your comments. And thank you to all who participated in our study.

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Sylver’s president, Brianna Sylver to Present at Northwestern University with Mozilla on Impacts of Latin America Study Findings

April 25, 2013 – by Admin

Sylver’s founder and president, Brianna Sylver, announced today that she, along with Mozilla’s user experience research lead, Cori Schauer, will be speaking at Northwestern University on May 7, 2013. In their one hour talk, Sylver and Schauer will dive into their topic, “Designing for the Next 2 Billion Users: Firefox OS Focuses on Emerging Markets” where they will share key learnings and impacts of Sylver Consulting and Mozilla’s collaborative work together in Brazil and Colombia.

Mozilla has designed an open mobile platform to bring the Internet to a new set of users in emerging markets. Firefox OS is set to launch into emerging markets worldwide beginning Summer 2013. During the presentation, attendees will get an opportunity to see the device, learn about its development and appreciate what it means to truly know your user and how that knowledge has supported Mozilla in creating a better user experience.

The public is invited to attend this event on May 7, 2013 from 4-5pm CST at Northwestern University’s Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center located at 2133 Sheridan Rd, Room 1.350 in Evanston, IL 60208.

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Defining Brazil’s Emerging Middle Class

April 9, 2013 – by Brianna

I’m brimming with excitement and pride as I write this post today.

Sylver Consulting has conducted numerous projects in Brazil, spanning government and automotive to healthcare and consumer goods. Occasionally, we can’t help but notice certain trends rising across multiple clients and studies. No trend has been more prevalent in recent years than clients wanting to understand how to capture the attention of Brazilian emerging middle class consumers, a segment that represents more than 50% of the Brazilian population or approximately 100 million people.

It’s an understatement to say, “Everyone wants a piece of this pie.” Who wouldn’t? But, we’ve also experienced major misconceptions about who the middle class, or the C class, consumer of Brazil is and the best way to capture a piece of this consumer’s wallet.

This brings me to the reason I am so excited … Sylver has developed a three-part video series about the middle class consumer of Brazil. Today, we’re publishing Part 1 of that series: Defining Brazil’s Emerging Middle Class.

Enjoy! We’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have. Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us via e-mail or phone.

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Reflections from the 2013 Kellogg Latin America Business Conference

March 15, 2013 – by Rebecca

Adriano Galvao and I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Kellogg Latin America Business Conference on Saturday, March 2 on Northwestern University’s campus in Evanston, Illinois. Titled “Introducing the Real Latin America,” the conference delivered on its promise to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the region and to challenge stereotypical notions.

A few of the highlights:

- During the e-commerce panel, César Salazar from venture capital firm 500 Startups forecasted a considerable rise in smartphone usage in Mexico. He predicted that in the not-too-distant future — and this probably holds true beyond Mexico and Latin America — “E-commerce will just be called commerce.” He also noted that Latin Americans value good service, but are accustomed to receiving very poor service. (He used a more colorful expression than “very poor” and got some laughter from the audience.) His point was that a company that can deliver truly good service will receive a warm welcome in the region. If you can delight the people who aren’t used to being delighted all the time, that would be something indeed.

- Also on the e-commerce panel was Lucas Mendes, director of São Paulo-based Beleza Na Web, the second largest online beauty provider in Brazil. He said that for Brazilian startups like his, finding talent is the biggest problem because “The A-people don’t want to work for a startup.” He added that the entrepreneurial community in Brazil is small and the chances of making it as a startup are slim, but he encouraged any would-be entrepreneurs in the room by saying, “Just do it. You will probably fail, but it will be a hell of a ride.” The panelists agreed that there are opportunities for Latin Americans — and non-Latin Americans — to start businesses in Brazil and the region.

- The “Family Business in Latin America” panel made it clear how important family is to Latin Americans and how family businesses truly shine in the region. Mario Ceratti Benedetti from Italian sausage company Ceratti, S.A. commented that his company has protocols in place to deal with succession and conflict between family members. His children are getting excellent educational and professional experience, so they can one day perhaps be leaders of the business. (One of his daughters is currently an MBA student at Kellogg.)

- The CEO of a family business (but not one of the family members), David Palfenier of Seara Alimentos mentioned that he has developed a framework to help maintain some of the culture of how the family used to run the business before his time there. It can be a challenge, he said, but he tries to stay as close to them as possible. César Salazar jumped in to say how difficult it can be when family members sometimes get together for Sunday lunch and make major decisions without you.

- Keynote speaker Christian Laub from Credicorp, one of the Kellogg LABC sponsors, was outwardly trolling for talent among the Kellogg MBA students in attendance. He gave a great presentation about how his Peru-based financial services company is acquiring other players in the region, most notably in Chile and Colombia — and will be rebranding these newly combined banks with a single identity in April 2013.

- Lastly, our own Adriano did a great job moderating a panel on “The Transformation of Latin American Industry,” which featured representation from Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.
Panelist Kenneth Mendiwelson, founder of Refinancia, emphasized that Colombia and other countries need more “heros” — entrepreneurs who demonstrate that is possible to be successful in Latin America.

All in all, it was a great day — oh, I almost forgot to mention the Latin America-inspired lunch! I really enjoyed the ceviche and sparkling conversation with a group of Kellogg students, most of whom were originally from Chile. Thanks to the Kellogg Class of 2013 student team, who organized and managed the event.

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Postcard from the Edge of Global Research: Can You Tell What Language Someone Speaks? Well, Sim — and Nyet.

February 28, 2013 – by Rebecca

So, I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling overseas — or even when I’m just touring around domestically — I’m absolutely fascinated listening to the multitude of languages, dialects and accents I hear along the way — waiting in the security line, getting settled on a plane, checking into my hotel. I’m always thinking, wouldn’t it be great if I could say “hello” or “thank you” or “goodbye” in the language the other person speaks? I don’t mean necessarily striking up a random conversation with just anyone — I tend to focus more on the people I am interacting with for a good reason — there is usually some kind of transaction or exchange of information going on.

If you think about it, an amazing number of people in the world can speak at least some English, for which I am very grateful, so it seems like acknowledging their original languages and places of origin would be the right thing to do — if you could do it right.

I’m not a linguistics expert by any means, but I like to think that every language has certain telltale signs that differentiate it from every other language. But that doesn’t always work in a practical sense. For example, if you hear someone say something that sounds like “ney” — it could be “no” in Dutch or “yes” in Korean — so the context — where you are and who the speaker is — is key. I try to store new words, phrases and pronunciations in “Evernote” on my smartphone, so I can call on them when I need them. and are two other language learning resources worth checking out.

But for me, the easiest way to find out someone’s first language is to ask politely in English where he or she is from originally (assuming there is a chance the person speaks English in the first place). As long as my request appears to come from a place of sincere curiosity and courtesy, most people are happy to answer my question. Some even beg me to guess! I had one taxi driver in Dallas who was shocked because I correctly guessed he was from Somalia. He looked so tall and lanky like the famous fashion model Iman, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. But in other cases, I have been completely stumped. The Egyptian bellman in Sydney — he could have been from so many places around the world — I had no clue just based on his looks or his accent.

Taxi drivers and hospitality workers all over the world have been enormously helpful in my quest to say small words in many languages with a halfway decent accent. I have also been helped by Google Translate, many of my friends who speak English as a second language, our overseas research partners and fellow travelers. So, to all of you, I say “shukran,” “xièxiè,” “spasibo,” … I could go on and on, really. So let me just say “thanks.”

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Sylver’s Adriano Braun Galvao to Moderate at the 2013 Kellogg Latin America Business Conference

February 22, 2013 – by Admin

Sylver Consulting, the international innovation research and strategy firm, will be in good company on the first Saturday in March, as it convenes with industry leaders and entrepreneurs interested in the evolving business landscape in Latin America.

Sylver’s founder and president, Brianna Sylver, announced today that the company’s vice president, Adriano Braun Galvao, will be moderating the Transformation of Latin American Industry panel at the Kellogg Latin America Business Conference on March 2, 2013. The event will be held at the James L. Allen Center at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, USA. According to Kellogg, this year’s conference, titled Introducing the Real Latin America, will “invite conference participants to challenge the traditional notions of what defines Latin America, urging them to look beyond buzz words associated with Latin America and gain an understanding of what really drives the region.”

The Latin America Business Conference is one of the most distinguished events held at Kellogg, which is consistently ranked among the top business schools in the world. Conference planners aim to provide a platform whereby attendees “gain valuable insights and walk away with actionable understanding of the outlook for the future of Latin America.” Both business leaders from Latin America and those residing in the U.S. with expertise in the region will contribute to the conversation of the day.

The panel being moderated by Mr. Galvao, a native of the capital city of Brasilia in Brazil, will discuss the evolution of Latin American economies, infrastructure and business opportunity for both traditional industries and breakthrough organizations. Featured speakers on this panel include: Aaron Dychter, founder and president of ADHOC Consultores Asociados, A.C.; Kenneth Mendiwelson, founder and CEO of Refinancia; and Rogerio Rizzi de Oliviera, principal at Monitor Deloitte.

To learn more about the upcoming conference, you can watch the video below and visit them at

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