Want to improve presentation effectiveness by 30%?
Simply turn off the projector
If you’re in the room, turn off the projector. If you’re via Zoom, don’t share your slides. Instead, use your slides as your notes (as you’ve always done) and simply talk to your audience.
Your slides are your notes, and your notes are on your laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone. Deliver your presentation as you normally would. Just don’t show your slides to the audience.
The research is absolutely clear. You’ll improve your ability to communicate your ideas by twenty to thirty per cent.
When you absolutely need a visual to aid understanding, introduce it, show it, answer questions about it. When it’s no longer needed, remove it from view and carry on the conversation with the audience.
In 2007, a research team from the University of New South Wales, led by John Sweller, PhD, released a study that concluded that when humans attempt to read and listen at the same time, working memory is overloaded and they retain less than if they either read or listen separately.
This is actually quite easy to test. The next time you’re watching your favourite all-news channel, try listening to what the announcer is saying while reading what’s scrolling across the screen. Even if both are based on the same story, it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to realize that if you hope to get anything out of the exercise, you have to block out one or the other.
The same happens during presentations with even the simplest of written information on the screen.
Dr. Sweller received world-wide attention when he said: “The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster. It should be ditched.” And his research has been verified at a variety of universities around the world.
The studies below highlight the most important question about the communication effectiveness of any presentation. In each, two identical presentations were delivered. One showed the slides. One didn’t.
At the end of the presentation, the audience completed a quiz based on what was presented. Which audience scores higher on the test?
Was it the audience that saw the slides? Or the audience that didn’t?
- Researchers at Purdue University concluded it’s possible to “hear” more of what a professor says by not attending class, than attending a class in which slides are shown.
- Researchers from Barcelona concluded that slides impede communication, leading to lower retention by the audience, and addressed the belief that, when using slides, the slides themselves are not the problem. If people knew how to use slideware properly, this argument goes, there wouldn’t be a problem. “PowerPoint doesn’t bore people,” these folks often say. “Using PowerPoint poorly is what bores people.” Not true.
- Researchers in Munich confirmed the results of the studies at Purdue and Barcelona. This team tested two types of slides—what they called “regular” and “concise” slides—versus just talking to the audience. From this research, the researchers coined the term “the speech suppression effect of PowerPoint.”