This is a topic I’ve covered extensively in my own presentations, in my work with faculty, in the design of my online courses, and even here Rodney’s Corner. But it’s also something I feel compelled to attend because I do work with so many PowerPoint presentations that could use a little bit of CPR and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to improve PowerPoint presentations.
On the average, people speak at 150 words per minute while most people read at 300 words per minute. Based on cognitive load theory, by putting all your text on the slides, you’re overloading your audience and they won’t retain nearly as much information.
Cognitive Load Theory
Dr. John Sweller and some folks from Australia came up with the theory in the 1950’s. He’s also the guy who says PowerPoint use has been a disaster and should be ditched.
According to CLT we receive information on two channels and if either is overloaded, the Message is not received and the data is lost.
Data is useless without context.
Information must be collated and contextualized. Speaking out loud is not just cheap information transfer, it’s about making impressions. Making the right impression increases retention. Sideshows are not meant to replace the presentation, but to enhance it. Using visuals in the presentation engages both sides of the brain. Words on a slide cause the audience to either listen to the speaker or to read the text of the slide.
Communication is about the transfer of emotion. – Seth Godin
Print is good for detail, but “out loud” is good for inspiration. Slideware is “out loud”. Creating a “slideument” does not equal out loud. If you want your audience to read, give them a handout, don’t put it on the screen.
Speaking isn’t about getting the words right; it’s about giving the words impact.
Suggestions for Improving PowerPoint Presentations
Suggestion #1 – No more than six words to a slide. Ever. Period.
Suggestion #2 – Use animations to deliver multiple bullet points so they come up one at a time. Or use a separate slide for each point.
Suggestion #3 – Use images. Not cheesy ones.
Suggestion #4 – Leave out extraneous material. Images which don’t support the text distract the learner.
Suggestion #5 – No fancy transitions or animations. If you use them, keep,them consistent.
Suggestion #6 – Use more slides and fewer bullets
Suggestion #7 – If you must have bullet points, use subtle animations to control attention flow.
Suggestion #8 – No more than 2 lines of text.
Suggestion #9 – Do not underline for emphasis. Use italic, bold or color for emphasis.
Suggestion #10 – Use an easy to read font. Typically use Sans Serif fonts
Suggestion #11 – Use real handouts or link to web pages rather than print your slides.