On the Perils of PowerPoint

I can’t tell you how many presentations I’ve been to over the years–at work and elsewhere–that have been delivered via PowerPoint. Usually, when EB Games rolled out a new program, managers would come and watch/listen to a PowerPoint presentation for an hour or two. And while I’d be with it completely for the first five or ten minutes, I’d lose the thread as the presentation continued. I couldn’t concentrate. I’d lose the details.

I always wondered why that was. Where had my concentration gone? Surely, the way the information was being presented–a visual component on a projector, a presenter verbally reinforcing the information–should have kept my attention from flagging.

A study done in Australia has the answer. The human brain isn’t set up to process information like that. “[T]he brain is limited in the amount of information it can absorb – and presenting the same information in visual and verbal form – like reading from a typical Powerpoint slide – overloads this part of memory and makes absorbing information more difficult.”

The Australian researchers recommend a slightly different PowerPoint format. Rather than simply read the text on the PowerPoint slide, read from a script that complements visuals like diagrams and pictures that present the same information in a very different format. “[I]t is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented.”

So, this inability to concentrate for long periods of time on PowerPoint presentations? It’s not me! That’s a relief! 🙂

One thought on “On the Perils of PowerPoint

  1. I have something flagged in del.icio.us somewhere which details the ten most common faults in PP presentations. Using them as cue cards is very high on the list. The main ‘joy’ of PP is that you can present information both verbally and visually.

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