PowerPoint Masterclass: Visualisation

Brightcarbon have been delivering some rather impressive webinars on approaches to PowerPoint presentations. The first one was on 'Visualisation' and this is a quick summary of the main points.

Slides which are packed with information cause audiences to disengage - thus making the presentation a complete waste of time for both presenter and audience as no information is communicated and retained. Recent research* reveals that slide design is critical.

People recall more information from somebody talking without visual aids than from somebody with a packed slide. Also, the presenter is tuned out in favour of the information on the slide itself, which is seen as more important. If that slide is then made simpler, an audience will remember more because the presenter can then add more value to the presentation.

It's impossible to listen and read at the same time, so audiences have to simply switch their attention between the slides and the presenter, which is both tiring and confusing, and people will just pick one and ignore the other. When the presenter and the slides are working in synch, audiences pay most attention and remember the most.

What to do? Well, recent neurological research** shows that vision is the most important sense in humans, and as presentations are a visual channel of communication, we should:
  • reduce text as far as possible (put text in the speaker notes instead of on the slides)
  • look at the story behind the slide and use pictures, diagrams and graphs that help you tell that story
  • not worry if those pictures are not completely self-explanatory, or they build up or change - then the audience is more motivated towards the presenter's explanation
This means that the same message is delivered consistently across two channels and the audience doesn't need to switch their attention because they are getting visual information from the slides and verbal information from the presenter.

So, Visualisation means giving the audience something that can be easily understood and which reinforces your point.

There is one more webinar to go, so if you're interested, here are the details - it's well worth half an hour of your time: Online PowerPoint Masterclass – 25th April 2012 @ 1pm (BST)

* Wecker, Christof (2012) "Slidepresentations as speechsuppressors: When and why learners miss oral information" in Computers & Education Volume 59, Issue 2, September 2012, Pages 260–273
** Wandell, Dumoulin & Brewer (2007) "Visual Field Maps in Human Cortex" in Neuron, Volume 56, Issue 2, 25 October 2007, Pages 366–383