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

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

And for anyone of you who, you’re good at math, you’ll find out that that number is approximately 500% difference. How is that even remotely possible? There are only two objects indifference. Well, might I suggest the following, this one you have to count, and this one you see. Could that be correct? So what you just experienced is the following: that the cognitive process of counting takes 500% longer time, requires 500% more energy resources to execute than just seeing. So, what I want you to keep in mind at all times, what I want you to keep in your head is this, which is the Swedish number for this. The magical number is six. It’s not five, it’s not seven, it’s six. And I want to make you aware of this.

When you go into a presentation in the future, and you’ve built this amazing PowerPoint, if you’ve got more than seven objects, or seven or more objects, you have to be aware that all the people in there, they have to use 500% more energy and cognitive resources to understand what’s in your PowerPoint. Now, how do you think their energy-saving brain by nature behaves? Will it go like ooh, I’ll easily invest 500% more cognitive resources to understand this weird slide, or, I won’t? I won’t. And you’ve just incurred death by PowerPoint.

Now what does this look like in real life? Well, have a look at this. 16 objects, can we agree that that’s too many? Yes, we can. So what does it look if we reduce it. Look at this. We go from this to this. And this is where your brain goes, ‘ahh’. And this is where your brain goes, ‘ugh’. Ahhh, ugh. And I assume that in the future when you deliver PowerPoints to your colleagues, to your fellow people, you want them to go, ‘ahhh’ when you show them your slides. You don’t want them to go ‘uggh’. Now there is … have you seen this movie, the Rain Man by Dustin Hoffman? Seen that? It’s a beauty, isn’t it? He comes into this cafeteria, and somebody drops the toothpicks, and he goes like, boom, 24/7. It’s amazing, isn’t it? His perceptive limit is here. Your perceptive limit is here.

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Now what amazes me is that whichever country I go to, whichever company I see, it seems like they build PowerPoints in the hope that all their fellow colleagues are autistic or savants, which obviously is not the case. So, but then you go like this, but, David, my god! This means that I have to have more slides. Yes, that is entirely correct, you have understood me clearly. I want to make one thing clear here, and that is that the amount of slides in your PowerPoint has never been the problem. It is the amount of objects per slide which has been the problem. This stupid idea that corporate organizations all over the world have come up with limitations going like ooh, we’ve got this clever idea. You can’t use 40 slides, you can only use four. So what do people do? Well, they take the content of the rest 36, and they jam it in the first four. My god, is that counterproductive or what. And we call ourselves intelligent. No, no. Alright, so compared.

I started off with 95 of those. We ended up with a 135 of these. And yes, it gave an immediate result to the application that we were working for. So, to summarize this. Let’s have some fun and do a cross-examination because obviously I have to prove my point. Do you remember more than 90% of what I said? I’m not going to be that harsh. Let’s do a crossword instead. It’s going to go like this. Words are going to come up, I’m going to ask you to scream them out as loud as you can as we along. How many messages are you supposed to have per slide?

Audience: One.

One, very good. I think you were looking for a different word there. What can we use to steer our focus?

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Audience: Contrast.

Yes, and another one?

Audience: Size.

Well done. What should we avoid using if speaking at the same time?

Audience: Sentences.

Beautiful. What should we strive, what kind of backgrounds should we have? We should have dark. And finally, now you can say it, how many objects per slide? Six, that is magnificent, thank you very much.

For Further Reading:

(Article): The 110 Techniques of Communication & Public Speaking: David JP Phillips (Transcript)


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