LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

July 2021
Volume 17, Issue 7

These are monthly tips on boosting business and professional results.

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Note from the Author

Is This Your Slide Show Dilemma?

Audience snoozing awayAre you tired of dry, boring, badly designed business presentations? If so, you’re in good company!

Many people aren’t sure of what’s required to produce a truly effective slide show, and are equally turned off by the ones that other people create.

What are some of the most common complaints you hear (or utter) about the presentations you usually attend, whether they’re for business, social, technical, scientific, philanthropic, or academic reasons? How about...

  • “They’re too bullet-heavy.”
  • “The text is too small to decipher.”
  • “People tend to read from their slides.”
  • “There’s way too much information being presented.”
  • “The material is incredibly dull and unimaginative.”

Does that sound familiar? If so, there’s no longer a need to subject anyone to exhaustion from this antiquated style of presentation design.

That’s because today’s feature article provides 10 powerful tips and techniques that apply to any presentation you create with slide software applications, whether it’s Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, Google Slides, or any other authoring system.

I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and as always, please be sure to join the ongoing conversations by leaving your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Where Does “Presentation Science” Come From?

"E-Learning and the Science of Instruction" by Ruth Clark and Richard E. MayerToday’s feature article introduces cognitive science into the equation for presentation design. But where does the research come from, and what exactly does it have to do with what we present to our audiences?

A couple of excellent books can help answer this question. They explain different aspects of a series of experiments on human comprehension and learning. For example, they help us understand that the same basic principles that govern how people learn best with visual and auditory elements (multimedia) also apply to the design of presentations.

"Multimedia Learning" by Richard E. MayerE-Learning & the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning,” co-authored by Drs. Ruth Clark and Richard E. Mayer, expands on the plethora of studies on human learning that Dr. Mayer and his colleagues have conducted over the last 20 years.

Much of Dr. Mayer’s original research appeared in a prior work, “Multimedia Learning.” This book initially laid out the principles behind how well we learn from various combinations of visual and auditory stimuli.

For example, these studies suggest that using your slides as your “narration script” (where you read your talking points off of your slides, while your audience is also reading them) can hurt your audience’s comprehension. There are much better ways to design slides than using bullet points to tell your story. This revelation — one of many — may seem intuitive. But without the science backing it up, many people would not realize exactly how much they reduce the impact of their presentations by following their old, familiar habits!

Feature Article

Use These 10 Tips to Add Pizzazz to Your Presentations
by Adele Sommers

What are some of the so-called “guidelines” you’ve heard about designing slide presentations?

  • “A slide show is only supposed to display an outline, nothing more.”
  • “Use a maximum of 6 bullet points with 6 words each on any slide.”
  • “Keep the slide count to a minimum, even if you have to cram in details.”
  • “Use a lot of special effects to keep people awake.”

Caution: These are myths about slide content, composition, and arrangement. None is meaningful, and none uses the powerful science behind human learning to help your audiences understand and assimilate ideas. In fact, if you apply this advice, it might actually hinder your audience’s ability to understand, retain, and recall what you present!

Where did these old habits and myths originate? We’ve had uncountable role models who’ve shaped our ideas about what slide presentations should look like. The presentation software itself encourages our bad habits with bullet-point-based slide templates on the one hand, and all sorts of bells and whistles on the other. Myriad theories have emerged about how to “fix” the obvious problems, some of which are helpful but incomplete.

So, what should we do instead?

For one thing, we’re finally beginning to realize that a slide is just a blank canvas on which we can paint anything we want. But what exactly should we paint, and why?

Keep in mind that we are not just creating a slide presentation, but rather, an entire audience experience with a variety of visual, auditory, informational, emotional, and persuasive components. We can summarize the ideas behind this presentation formula in these simple terms:

Art + Science + Story = Impact!

The "Art + Science + Story = Impact" formula

Begin by Building a Step-by-Step Foundation for Your Presentation

This formula involves four potent stages, each of which is explained in greater detail in the sections that follow.

1. First, start with a needs assessment to determine what and how much to do. Depending on whether the impression you need to make is low-key or high-stakes, you can decide which principles of the formula to apply.

Four-level presentation planning pyramid2. Second, if your situation is fairly low-key, or you have relatively little time, plan to use the Artistic and Multimedia Principles at a minimum to maximize your audience’s ability to understand and retain your ideas.

3. Third, if your situation is high-stakes, plan to apply the Story Principles as well to help make your presentation exceptionally memorable and actionable.

4. Fourth, aim to use three crucial delivery tips when you go to present your slide show in person.

1. Start with a Needs Assessment for a Remarkable Presentation

Needs assessment clipboardBefore you get started, aim to do some preliminary planning. This important first step can make the difference between a world-class presentation and just another forgettable slide show!

After all, you could eventually expend considerable effort to conceptualize, design, script, illustrate, rehearse, and deliver your slide presentation. So, before you do anything, why not consider which aspects are most important to you?

Ask yourself at least 5 key questions about your purpose, the audience, their needs, your goals, the setting, and potential future uses of your material, as follows:

1) What’s the purpose, what’s at stake, and how critical is the outcome?

2) What is your anticipated audience’s frame of reference?

3) What actions do you want your audience to take as a result?

4) Where are you planning to deliver the presentation — in person or online?

5) In the future, could your presentation expand into something more?

In response to these questions, you can decide how to scale your time and energy investment to suit the needs of your presentation scenario, including how casual or critical it is, and how sophisticated or uninitiated your target audience may be.

2. Use the Artistic & Multimedia Principles in Any Situation

If you have relatively little time, or the stakes are fairly low, and you have no big plans to expand or reuse your presentation in the future, you can still make a solid, pleasing impression and produce it fairly quickly using the Artistic & Multimedia principles. These principles pertain to the use of text, graphics, details, and special effects:

  • Art + Science part of the formulaTip #1: Text – Display only one main idea per slide. Place your detailed talking points (your narration script) only in handouts and speaker notes; don’t cram your slides with bullet-point outlines. And, this is critical — aim to make all of the text you use at least 24 points high to be readable across a room.
  • Tip #2: Graphics – Let relevant photographs, drawings, screen captures, and simple maps, charts, graphs, and diagrams do most of the visual “heavy lifting.” Images help us encode ideas as easily retrievable symbols. For that reason, it’s ideal to use a full-sentence caption to explain the imagery. But, on the other hand...

    Avoid “branding” slides with logos or any gratuitous decorations. These are highly distracting, and studies show they actually depress learning. If logos are required on every slide, try turning them into very small, subtle treatments to fit inconspicuously in a lower corner, for example. Otherwise, limit logos to the first and last slides only, or put them anywhere in the handouts.
  • Tip #3: Details – Put intricate images and other fine details in the handouts instead of the slides to avoid overloading your audience’s visual and cognitive processing abilities.
  • Tip #4: Special effects – Use relevant sounds, animations, and transitions — but only sparingly — to highlight or demonstrate key points. Otherwise, the sheer “wow” factor can distract attention from the points you are making.

3. Use the Story Principles for the Most Powerful Impression Overall

If you have more time, and the stakes are fairly high, or you think you might later develop the presentation into other products or uses, strongly consider applying all of the recommendations. These include the Story Principles, which pertain to your presentation’s focus, structure, and scope:

  • Art + Science part of the formulaTip #5: Focus – Begin by framing your audience’s role, perspective, and needs. Then introduce the challenge the audience faces and your solution, and explain the actions that the audience members can take.
  • Tip #6: Structure – Create a logical sequence and flow based on a scalable hierarchy of detail, starting with an audience orientation.
  • Tip #7: Scope – “Chunk” all of your material into just 3 to 4 main topics. Have clear starting and ending points for each of your main sections, so your presentation doesn’t ramble. Include reviews along the way to summarize the content, and be sure to recap your 3 to 4 main ideas at the end!

4. Keep These Final Points in Mind to Create Impact During Delivery...

After you’ve worked so diligently to create an outstanding, well-illustrated story that focuses on your audience’s needs, use these three tips to make sure your delivery is just as compelling:

  • Tip #8: Remember to face your audience. If you break eye contact with your attendees to read from projected slides, it interrupts the flow and further splits the audience’s attention.

  • Tip #9: Remember to converse with your audience. Not engaging the audience enough during your presentation invites their attention to wander elsewhere.
  • Tip #10: Remember to respect your audience’s time. Running way overtime trying to cover too much information in the time available dilutes your impact and can even cause resentment.

In conclusion, an engaging slide presentation helps broadcast a clear, powerful message; you might have only one chance to communicate your ideas effectively.
But if you start with a needs assessment to determine what to do, you can use the
Art + Science + Story = Impact formula to make every presentation a smashing success!

Copyright 2021 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

Another Must-Have Resource for Presentation Design

Are you wondering whether there’s a single “go-to” reference that can help you master every aspect of presentation design — from crafting the story structure to choosing and designing the graphics? My favorite by far, which is now a classic, is Beyond Bullet Points, by Cliff Atkinson.

His updated version, “Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (3rd Edition),” might completely alter your previous beliefs about using text-heavy slide shows.

"Beyond Bullet Points" by Cliff AtkinsonAtkinson has pondered presentations with the same zeal and thoroughness that aspiring surgeons have studied anatomy. He cites research by Dr. Richard Mayer and others who have experimented extensively with how people learn through visual and auditory stimuli. Their findings highlight the range of conditions that learners require to successfully absorb new information.

Atkinson was one of the first to link the scientific studies about multimedia learning to the realm of presentation design. For example, he used that research to make the case that bullet-heavy slides with very few illustrations can actually work against your audience’s ability to comprehend, store, and recall your information.

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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