Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cognitive Load and PowerPoint

So the big question posted over at the Learning Circuits Blog is about PowerPoint when is it appropriate, what is appropriate for inclusion, what about bullet points, etc.

My feeling is that PowerPoint is appropriate in moderation. I had a training manager at a previous job who always limited his PowerPoint slides to four slides or less. He was from the school that believed that PowerPoint slides should only be used to reinforce critical points in the speaker's presentation.

I'm writing this on the fly, but I think Seth Godin's free booklet Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it) sums it up best. The three wrong reasons people use PowerPoint are:

  1. To serve as a teleprompter.
  2. Create a report of their presentation
  3. As a handout to the audience.
The appropriate use of PowerPoint, Godin says, is to help tap into the emotional right side of your audience's brain. He states that four components of a great presentation are:

  1. Have cue cards that cover the material you wish to discuss so that you do not put all of your talking points on to the PowerPoint slide and read from it.
  2. As a corollary,  PowerPoint slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them. "Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you're saying is true not just accurate. This is created with pictures not bullet points.

  3. Create a written document to hand out after the presentation, and make the audience aware that you have the handout so that they don't think they have to write everything down.
  4. Create  a feedback cycle. To be honest, I have to think about this one, Mr. Godin's example is if the presentation is for a project approval provide a project approval form explicitly spelling out what is being approved. The people making the decision should sign the approval form at the end of the presentation.
My biggest pet peeve (besides overall boredom of PowerPoint presentations) is the misuse of bullet points. They should only be used if you have a series of two or more related items. I truly grind my teeth when I see a bullet on a single topic. Unfortunately I'm as guilty as the next. Here's an example of a PowerPoint slide I created for a team presentation that meets all of Seth Godin's points (I think), but violate the bullet point issue:

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1 comment:

Deborah said...

PowerPoint is a nice tool to create business presentations and e-learning courses. Converting your presentation to flash, let's say by using iSpring Pro you can make it easy to share or distribute.