Eliminate Bullet Points
We have all experienced that disheartening feeling when seeing a slide filled with text. Because our brain processes words as images we mentally sigh, then decide if we will attend to all the processing that needs to be done or seek out something else that is more interesting.The items that typically are listed as bullets should be in your notes.
Instead of adding lots of text, add an image or several. The adage about a picture and a thousand words is incredibly true. When explaining good presentation design to my students, I showed the Thirst presentation. I asked how it was different from the many presentations they have viewed. I also asked the class as a whole for many of the statistics in the presentation. As a group, they could answer every one correctly because it is visual, breaks things into small chunks, and gives them an image to recall with a statistic. Many of the images also tug on emotions which triggers the limbic system of the brain.
By moving the bullets to your notes, you also force your students/audience to paraphrase if they are taking notes. This helps them retain the information because they are not simply transcribing everything on your slides. Additionally, if they write the notes as opposed to typing them, they have to put things into their own words since they can’t write as fast as the average person talks. This helps them connect to prior knowledge or mental classification schemes they have already created.
Tell a Story
Humans are natural story tellers. On the flip side, your audience will immediately perk up and pay attention when a story is involved. We have a tendency to want to compare ourselves with the person in the story. If we find commonality, we connect with the presentation. If the person in the story is heroic or does something that’s incredibly difficult, we can’t help but try to measure ourselves against the focal character. If the story is about someone who does unthinkable things, even if we can’t identify with them, we still want to soak in the details in case we have an opportunity to re-tell the story to someone else.
Model Good Copyright Practices
Use your own images. Camera phones have come a long way in the quality of photos they deliver.
When you can’t use your own photos, limit your searches to images that are labeled for reuse.
Humans like to keep score. When you provide a scaffolding, an expectation that X number of items will be covered, or some other way to track the information presented, your audience will remain faithful. If you do not provide a well laid path, your viewers will look for something else to attend to.
Provide a Hook
Just as a reading anticipation guide gives the brain a structure to connect what it encounters in text to key ideas presented up front, a hook puts your audience in anticipation mode. Radio announcers use this technique consistently to keep you listening. “What three things do celebrities say they can’t live without? The answer after the next commercial break.”
Keep Slides Simple
A good rule of thumb is one idea per slide. As you relay the information in your notes, your audience can focus on the image(s) and connect the information visually and auditorily.
If several ideas can be naturally linked, group them.
Use animations sparingly and only to make a point. The arrows in this presentation are animated to emphasize the lowering of the bad things and the raising of the good.
Incorporate as Many Learning Styles as Possible
While presentations tend to be visual and incorporate the spoken word, simply listening and taking notes does not engage the Weirnicke’s nor the Broca’s areas of the brain to the fullest extent. Provide one or two opportunities, if possible, for your audience to discuss what has been presented thus far. By talking about the items presented thus far, more neural connections are made. This makes the presentation more memorable.
If you can find a way to incorporate movement or gestures as well, you will help your audience retain even more information.
Cite Your Sources
Websites like the Citation Machine make it easy to cite sources in APA and MLA formats. By doing so you model best practices. It also enables your audience to seek out more information if they want to delve deeper into the topic.