After over 15 years of teaching in college classrooms, I’ve seen many cringeworthy presentation aids. I’ve seen slide shows with so much crammed on them it would take me half an hour just to read through all the text on the screens. I’ve seen unrelated visuals used as backgrounds which only served to upstage the speaker and distract the audience. And I’ve seen slides that were obviously thrown together at the last minute which ultimately just confused the audience.
What you put up on the screen during your presentation can lead to your success or failure as a speaker. These 3 tips will help you use presentation media correctly and effectively.
Remember the audience.
Begin with the audience in mind. The visuals on the screen are always, always, always for the audience. Some presenters use a slide show as a crutch for themselves, to help them stay focused or remember what to say. This is not how presentation media should be used. Research shows that approximately 65% of your audience will be visual learners. That means they need to see something in order to understand it. So when you choose to include thoughtful presentation media, you are increasing understanding for over half of your audience. Good presenters know visual media is another tool to enhance audience understanding, and they use it accordingly.
Reduce your words.
Presentation media should primarily do what words can’t: charts, graphics, pictures, etc. It’s okay to have some text in your presentation media, but when you do use words, make sure to use only those you truly need and use them sparingly. Leading corporate presentation coach Jerry Weissman says, “[Think about] what happens to the audience when the screen lights up with a slide filled with dense text and highly detailed tables, charts, and graphs. The focus of the audience immediately, and involuntarily, goes to the graphics, and they start to read. When they start reading, the stop listening.” If there are too many words on the screen, you’ll lose your audience to reading and, in doing so, will make yourself obsolete.
Simplify visual information.
As much as we like to think we are great multitaskers, we probably aren’t. In fact, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN says that only 2% of the population are really good at multitasking. For the other 98%, we aren’t really multitasking when our attention is divided between two things, we are just switching back and forth quickly. And when our brains have to switch between processing two things at once, it negatively affects both the speed and quality of our performance. One study found that driving attention decreased by 37% when the driver simply listened to someone talking. That means, when you are using a slide, the brain bandwidth of each member of your audience is divided between the tasks of listening to you and deciphering the visual information you are sharing. Because of this, you need to simplify the amount of information on each slide and allow plenty of time for audience comprehension when they are in dual-processing mode.
If you can develop your presentation media with the audience in mind, being mindful to reduce words and simplify visual information, you’ll be on the way to creating presentations that both communicate with and capture the attention of your audience.
To take your presentation media to the next level, check out the award-winning professional design services provided at Ethos3.