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

September 2023
Volume 19, Issue 9

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Below find this month’s newsletter, hot off the press!

  • Feature Article: Seven Major Mistakes to Avoid in Your Next In-Person Slide Presentation

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Note from the Author

Clear Communication Matters More than Ever

Three coworkers having an animated meetingAround the globe, the stakes have never been higher for the countless crusaders in myriad business, technical, charitable, scientific, social, and academic arenas that aspire to make an indelible mark on the world.

Problem solvers and thought leaders alike are seeking ever more compelling ways to rivet their audience’s attention and inspire their listeners to act!

That’s why today’s theme revisits the vital subject of potent presentations that will effectively persuade audiences and spur them to respond.

Whenever we’re planning to deliver a presentation in front of a live audience, we might choose to create a slide show to amplify our message. Yet as much as we struggle to finesse our slides, they don’t always produce the desired effects. Our audiences may not “get” our important points, or they might not feel inclined to take the actions we want, such as:

  • Accepting our proposals
  • Buying our products or services
  • Following our recommendations
  • Approving funding for our projects
  • Voting in favor of our candidate

What we need is a workable and repeatable formula for creating outstanding presentations that can vividly impart ideas and spark the follow-up activity we seek.

I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and please be sure to share your thoughts 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

A 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.

Besides being tedious and boring, a text-filled presentation helps ensure that very few people will remember much of what you say — at least from looking at your slides. This is just one of several important findings Atkinson cites... so, read on for more information!

Feature Article

Seven Major Mistakes to Avoid in Your
Next In-Person Slide Presentation

by Adele Sommers

Weary woman with the word "overload" on her foreheadSick and tired of mind-melting slide shows? If so, you’re in good company! Many people don’t yet know what’s required to create a truly effective slide presentation, and are equally turned off by the ones other people produce.

What are some of the common complaints you hear about the slide shows you typically attend, whether for business, technical, scientific, social, philanthropic, or academic purposes? How about...

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

Our dilemma is that we have an epidemic — a pandemic, if you will — of meeting attendees who have become exhausted by this antiquated style of presentation.

That’s why this article explains seven major mistakes and a set of corresponding remedies that can apply to any presentation you create with slide software, whether it’s Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, Google Presentations, or other platforms.

First, Beware of Nonsensical Advice

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

  • “Use a maximum of 6 bullet points with 6 words each on any slide.”
  • “Present no more than 40 slides in 20 minutes or less.”
  • “Use lots of special effects to keep people awake.”

These are really a set of myths about slide composition and arrangement. None of these myths cohesively addresses the underlying science behind human learning. In fact, applying this advice might actually hinder the audience’s ability to understand, retain, and recall the information presented.

Where did these old habits and myths originate? We’ve had countless role models who have shaped our ideas about what slide presentations should look like. The presentation software itself nudges us in these directions by providing 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 these are helpful but incomplete.

Artist painting on a canvasMore recently, however, people have begun to realize that slide software is really a blank canvas on which we can paint anything we want.

But what exactly should we paint, and why?

Keep in mind that we’re not just creating a presentation, but an entire audience experience.

That audience experience has a variety of visual, auditory, informational, emotional, and persuasive elements. All of these can range from highly effective to highly ineffective.

By applying a set of scientifically supported principles, you can enable your audiences to more easily assimilate your ideas and take the actions you desire. Below are seven problem areas with related remedies that are derived from the latest research.

7 Major Presentation Design Dilemmas, and How to Avoid Them

Consider that when you speak in front of an audience, your slide presentation will become a visual backdrop on the screen behind you. It’s a tremendous cognitive challenge for your audiences to watch you talk and gesture as they scan your slides — and skim your handouts — while trying to listen carefully to what you're saying!

The key is to blend all of these elements harmoniously into a cohesive whole, such as by avoiding the mistakes and using the tips in each problem area below.

1. Many of us learned to use mostly text to get our ideas across visually.

Mistake #1: Cramming slides with dense text or bullets causes an overload for viewers, including the inability to process all of the visual information presented.

Tip #1: Display only one basic idea per slide. Place all of the fine points (including your narration script and any other dense information) in your handouts instead.

2. Often, we aren’t sure how to use graphics, or why they’re important.

Mistake #2: Omitting graphic images that serve to symbolize what you say can hinder people’s ability to anchor your ideas.

Tip #2: Let relevant photos, drawings, screen captures, and simplified charts, graphs, and diagrams do most of the visual “heavy lifting.”

3. We frequently try to include too much detail in our projected images.

Mistake #3: Displaying elaborate detail in charts, graphs, and diagrams tends to lower comprehension, retention, and recall.

Tip #3: Put the details in the handouts instead of on the slides. Avoid “branding” slides with your logo, which can be distracting, but do use it in your handouts.

4. It’s tempting to depend on fancy special effects to spice things up.

Mistake #4: An excessive use of special effects can overwhelm or divert your audience’s attention, and can make people miss your key points.

Tip #4: Use relevant sounds, videos, animations, transitions, and even physical props in moderation to highlight or illustrate key points.

Note: Special effects can help make any stand-up presentation more engaging. However, when incorporating humor, whimsy, and wow factors, the challenge is to how to apply them without causing people to remember the “sizzle” instead of the “steak” (your core information). In general, relevant animations and videos can significantly increase understanding, especially when demonstrating concepts.

5. “That’s enough about me. What do you think about me?”

Mistake #5: Making a presentation all about you or your organization can cause people to wonder whether they have a part in your story, and what’s in it for them.

Tip #5: Begin by framing your audience’s role, perspectives, and needs. Then introduce your key ideas and the solutions you propose (which can weave in the expertise you bring). Finally, end with actions the audience members can take.

6. It’s natural to want to build a presentation by quickly brainstorming ideas.

Mistake #6: Designing your presentation as a loose collection of “idea lists” forces your listeners to try to organize your thoughts.

Tip #6: Create a logical structure and a sequence based on a scalable hierarchy of detail, which begins with an audience orientation.

7. We love telling people everything we know about our subject!

Mistake #7: Presenting way too many topics and subtopics for your audience to absorb reduces their retention and recall.

Tip #7: Boil down all of the material to just 3–4 main topics. Include review points along the way and a summary at the end. If you practice extensively beforehand while timing yourself, you’ll know exactly how much time it takes to deliver your message, and can adjust it accordingly.

In conclusion, with any type of presentation — persuasive, informational, technical, or instructional — you can use these guidelines to strengthen your logical case and emotional connection. You’ll thereby leave your audiences with clearer and more compelling reasons to embrace, retain, and pursue your ideas!

Copyright 2023 Adele Sommers

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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