The Successful Presenter
Presentation insights to help you
inform, educate, influence and persuade

Masterclass in PowerPoint Design

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When I attended Richard Goring’s presentation on “A Masterclass in PowerPoint Design,” I was reminded of an experience I had years ago with a number of not-for-profit executives at a conference north of Toronto.

They had just walked out of a presentation they believed provided incredible value, but couldn’t remember a single detail a few minutes after the presentation ended.

I was speaking at the conference. My breakout presentation at the conference was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. After a few people had filtered in, I asked “how was the luncheon presentation?”

“Fantastic,” they replied enthusiastically. One person added that “there was so much she talked about that could benefit our agencies.”

“Like what?” I asked.

What happened next was interesting, to say the least. It took them a few minutes to remember anything. Because there was a non-stop stream of verbal and visual information that was delivered so quickly, it spilled out and the audience had no chance to process ideas as they flew by. When I asked about the presentation a few minutes later, they could recall very little, even though they had just walked out of what they all believed was a fantastic talk of incredible value.

But someone remembered a small piece here and another there, so they could actually put together an idea or two. But they were shocked at how little they could recall. They all agreed that if I hadn’t motivated them to think about and discuss the presentation with my question, they would have remembered nothing when they returned to their agencies.

The same could be said for Richard’s presentation. His content was appropriate for every member of the audience who is a graphic designer interested in learning design tricks with PowerPoint. And I suspect this was a healthy portion of those in attendance at the PresentationPoint Europe conference.

There were many ideas presented about how to make slides more visually appealing. But there was too much information flying by for the audience to absorb it effectively.

The only pause during the presentation was when Richard was asked to improve his audio feed. Without pauses, there is simply no time to absorb verbal information—to move ideas from working memory to long-term memory, one idea at a time.

People cannot read and listen at the same time. They cannot think and listen at the same time. And they most assuredly cannot read and listen and think at the same time. This presentation asked participants to do all three all the time.

Ideally, the purpose of any presentation should be to get as much information into long-term memory as possible. Nobody wants to be forgotten as soon as the presentation is over.

But that’s what happens. It felt like a great presentation when you were there, but you remember almost nothing when it ends.

There is no question Richard has a deep well of knowledge from which his audience can draw. However, with a non-stop stream of verbal and visual information, very little (if anything) will be memorable. If the objective is to communicate effectively, what makes it to long-term memory is truly the only place from which the success of any presentation can be measured.

What you tell the audience is less important than what they remember. What they remember is all that counts.

Cover of the book One Bucket at a Time.
Eric Bergman is author of One Bucket at a Time: Presentation secrets to inform, educate, influence and persuade. He has been a student of the spoken word for four decades.

His approach to presentation effectiveness has been called “a window to the future of this important human activity” by one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists: John Sweller, Ph.D., emeritus professor of education, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. One Bucket at a Time is available from Kindle, Amazon and Apple Books.
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