Even sermons can't save slides

I just came across a fascinating study on the use of PowerPoint. The purpose of the study was to determine if using slides would enhance recall of information presented in a non-classroom field setting—in this case religious sermons.

The study examined four test conditions to determine the congregation’s (audience’s) recall of information presented. They tested recall of:
  1. A sermon that used slides with words only.
  2. A sermon using visual images on slides.
  3. A sermon that used a combination of visual images and words on slides.
  4. A sermon that used spoken words only—no slides.
After each sermon, the congregation completed a quiz to determine how much they remembered.

When they completed their statistical analyses, the researchers concluded that their “results indicated that the form of PowerPoint presentation had some effect on recall of information communicated in the sermons.

“Interestingly, the most effective form of communication—insofar as enhancing recall was concerned—was the use of words only in the presentation, with some minor positive results for the use of words combined with visual images.

“Visual images alone were of limited value in enhancing recall, and were less effective in influencing recall than were sermons presented without the use of PowerPoint.

“Poor PowerPoint format detracted from recall, but positive PowerPoint formats were not effective in increasing recall.”

In other words, use as many slides as you wish, as long as you don’t want the audience to remember what you said.

If you want to increase what the audience remembers (and who on earth wouldn’t?), turn off the projector. Don’t share your slides. Simply carry on a conversation with your audience.


less presentation more conversation


PowerPoint Is Worse Than Useless. (Please, for the sake of all humanity, let that sink in!)

four young people bored at table
This author cites an article from Inc. magazine that said the “audience will be just as happy with your presentation if you do it without your slides.”

Actually, the research is clear. If happiness is measured by what they understand and retain, the audience will be happier if there are no slides.

Read the article.


How presenters can best influence audiences

Every presenter’s goal is that their information is remembered, used, or applied in some way. But how can presenters change memories? How can they access the long-term memory of their audience?
Silhouette with question marks and lightbulbs inside

An interesting article from the
Harvard Business Review entitled “Getting an Audience to Remember Your Presentation,” by Art Markman of the University of Texas, states that the purpose of presentations is to influence the explicit memory of the audience. Markman argues that, for presentations to have high impact, speakers need to be aware of how information gets into memory.

Markman identifies three factors than can be used to improve what people remember. The first is to follow the right sequence.

Information presented at the beginning and end of a talk is always best remembered, he says. This is why it’s critical to state the call to action up front. The audience should be encouraged to either apply the information or take action on it, and this should be clearly stated at the beginning of every business presentation.

It's important to set the tone for the sequence. According to Markman, “many speakers open their talks with an anecdote that is engaging, but only tangentially relevant to the topic of the presentation. The audience may easily recall this anecdote later, but it won’t help them to learn what they really needed to know.”

Opening with jokes or anecdotes that distract from the main topic is always risky. Do you want the audience to remember your jokes or how to apply or take action on your information?

Markman’s second factor is to draw connections. To make his point, Markman uses a peanut analogy: “If you take peanuts out one at a time, you get three peanuts when you reach into the bowl three times. But, if you pour caramel over the peanuts, then when you pull one out, you get a whole cluster. After you draw from the bowl three times, you may have gotten almost all of the peanuts out.”

He states that memory works the same way and “making connections among the key points in your talk helps pour caramel over the peanuts in memory and increases the amount that people remember from what you present.”

The third factor is to make the audience work. Markman states that presentations must “provide opportunities for audiences to think for themselves.” The more the audience thinks about the ideas in the presentation, the greater the likelihood they will remember those ideas later. It is important to control when the audience thinks and what they think about. As anyone who as attended one of my workshops or presentations know, pausing is essential. Pausing before you speak allows you to formulate the idea in your mind before articulating it. Pausing after each idea allows the audience time to think about and absorb your information, one idea at a time.

One of the most effective ways to influence memory is through conversational delivery. The best presentations emulate good conversations—whether someone is presenting to an audience of one or one thousand.

Think of the best presentations you have attended. What made the presenter memorable? It is the feeling that the presenter is speaking to us individually, even if we are in a room with a thousand other people. It is the feeling that they are having the same conversation with a group of people that they would have one-on-one.

This is how presenters achieve their business and communication outcomes. And, to paraphrase Professor Markman, this is how they change memories.

sweller meme 2.001


Article says beautiful slides a waste of time

Conversation pattern with background.001
This author believes too much emphasis is being put on developing “snazzy presentation slides.” He believes it “is a waste of time and elicits a deluded sense of accomplishment.”

In his opinion, spending “days and days doing up a colourful slides with funky animation or photoshopped images” is not an optimal use of time.

Read the article.


I Tried Jeff Bezos's PowerPoint Replacement at My Company—and It Actually Worked

woman seated, applauding
In this LinkedIn post, Robert Glazer, CEO at Acceleration partners, talks about his journey as he eliminated PowerPoint presentations at meetings.

Doing so has provided his organization with five distinct competitive advantages.

Read Robert Glazer’s article.


If you’re showing PowerPoint, you’re missing the point

screeen up
This review of One Bucket at a Time, by Jay Robb of The Hamilton Spectator, makes says that “there’s only one good reason to bring us together for a meeting on Zoom or in a room.

“Showing us PowerPoint decks isn’t it.”

He concludes with: “Many of us are closing in on our first anniversary of working from home. One way to combat Zoom fatigue is to have a little less information and a little more conversation in 2021. Bergman can help make that happen.”

Click this link to read Jay Robb’s full review of One Bucket at a Time, which is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.


Article explores whether slides are powerful or pointless

cover of public speaking for dummies
The author of Public Speaking Skills for Dummies! says he doesn’t have a problem with slides, as long as they enhance what the speaker is saying.

His biggest complaint is that the slides should complement what the speaker is saying, but often there is one thing on the screen while the speaker is saying something else.

He also makes a point that has long seemed obvious to me. Why would someone bother attending the presentation when they can read the PowerPoint deck and stay home?

Read Alyson Connoly’s article.


Jeff Bezos explains why Amazon banned PowerPoint

In this video segment, Mr. Bezos explains why he believes insight and collaboration are more important than raw data to effective decision-making. He then explains how the implementation of the two-pizza rule fits into his thoughts and why banning PowerPoint at Amazon enhances decision-making. Read the full article.