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How to Avoid Death By PowerPoint: David JP Phillips at TEDxStockholmSalon (Transcript)

The first one of these five is one message. I received this from a customer, and I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot of issues in here, but let’s start with the first one’. You got two messages. Let’s move one of them out of the way, and just bring one message per slide. So, why should we only have one message per slide? Well, I’ll give you this beautiful example. You’re at this nice party, you got the music going boom-boom, you got this person you’re chatting away to, you’re having a good time, chat-chat-cha-cha-cha. And then you hear your name, you hear your name spoken somewhere, your entire attention is now diverted in that direction, and with this person you’re just nodding away, hoping that you’re nodding in the right instances, yeah? Yes, yes, yes.

After about a minute, this one stops talking about you, so you divert your attention straight again. Now, that person will then say, ‘Well, don’t you agree’? And don’t we just love that situation? We have got no clue what they’ve been talking about. The same thing goes for PowerPoint, if you’ve got more than one message, the chance is big that they will be focusing on this one and that one, or that one and not this one. Just make it simple for human beings. Have one message per slide. We are extremely limited to understanding more.

Let’s move on, go to working memory. I’ve already given you this bad vibe that your working memory is bad, and I’m afraid I’m not coming with better news. I’m coming with worse news, and it goes like this. This equation has the basis of John Sweller and Mayer, and they come to the conclusion that there is something in our brain called the redundancy effect, and it works like this. If you have text, sentences on your PowerPoint, and you persist with the annoying idea of speaking at the same time, what will be remembered by the audience is zero. Or very close to zero.

Now, why is that, how does that come about? Well, it can’t look like this, it’s just not practical. You can’t stand and have this and talk at the same time, so what are you supposed to do? Well, use PowerPoint for what it’s supposed to be used for, pick it like this, pull down your text into the documentation field and use the area up there for the presentation material, short, sweet bits of text and an image. That is what enhances your image. That is what enhances your message. So use PowerPoint as it’s supposed to be used.

Come to the third of these five principles, and that’s size. Before we go into that, I want to make you aware of something, and that is the following. Every time that you open your eyes for the rest of your life, you will focus on four things: moving objects, signalling colors, like red, orange, and yellow, contrast-rich objects, and big objects for the rest of your life. Give you a practical example of that. Imagine yourself being home with a friend, a really good friend. Now, the television is on, but the sound is off. You’re having a great conversation, but do you find it easy to not look at the television? No. Why not? Because it’s got moving objects, it’s got signalling colors, it’s high in contrast, and they’re usually very big these times. So, why not use this to our benefit?

If you look at this, where is your attention drawn to, without you even having a chance of controlling it? It’s going to the big three all the time. Have a look at the practical situation, have a look at this. Where is your eyes drawn to? I can see that they’re drawn constantly to the headline.

Now, how often is the headline the most important part in the PowerPoint? It’s very rare. Even so, even PowerPoint template is built like this, where the headline is the biggest object, and the content is the smallest. Going absolute opposite to our biological reactions. So what does this look like if we just show you an example?

Now, I’ve reduced the title, and it looks like this. Do you see how your eyes now fall down into the content? Now they’re sucked into the headline, and now they’re falling down into the content. So I can control exactly where you are, but why do people build PowerPoints where people will be spending 70% of the time on the headline when it’s not the most important part? So what I want you to take with you from this is the most important part of your PowerPoint should also be the biggest, nothing else.

Moving on, to number four, contrast. Contrast controls your focus. So what does that look like? For instance, if I show you a list like this, your eyes are over the place because you don’t really know what to focus on. So I’ll use a built-in functionality into PowerPoint which goes like this. I’ll show you the first subject, I’ll take it away with contrast, and I’ll show you the second one, and I’ll do it again and again, and again, and again. You’re now following exactly the white spot. If I do this, nun-dun-dun-dun-dun, I can see your eyes just wobbling around, and you’re a bit like a kitten going after a little laser pointer on the wall, going like: where is it, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. Because you’re following where the white spot is and not the rest.

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By Pangambam S

I have been a Transcriber and Editor in the transcription industry for the past 15 years. Now I transcribe and edit at SingjuPost.com. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know. And please do share this post if you liked it and help you in any way.

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