Even sermons can't save slides

sermon
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.

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less presentation more conversation

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Book encourages less presentation, more conversation

One Bucket at a Time shares secrets to informing, educating, influencing and persuading any audience


“The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

"For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

One Bucket Cover vF

John Sweller, PhD,
Emeritus Professor of Education,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia

Whether a presentation is delivered in the room or via Zoom, a new book is encouraging those conveying their ideas to embrace more conversation and less presentation. In this, the science is clear. It’s the best way to have those ideas received, understood, retained and acted upon by the audience.

One Bucket at a Time is based on the assumption that the only reason for bringing people together is to listen to someone share something of value.

“You can have a presentation without slides,” author Eric Bergman writes. “But you cannot have a presentation without a presenter. At its core, therefore, the effectiveness of any presentation can be measured by what makes it from the speaker’s vocal cords to the long-term memory of those in attendance.

“Once you understand that thought, it becomes evident that feeding into how people listen is the most critical presentation skill to develop.”

Using an analogy of a tank, bucket and trough, the book provides guidance into understanding and developing that critical skill. The tank is the information the presenter plans to get across to the audience. The trough is the collective long-term memory of those in attendance. The goal of any presentation should be to get as much sustenance as possible from tank to trough.

The only way that happens, however, is if the audience engages working memory to transfer those ideas into long-term memory one small bucket at a time.

“The challenge is that the bucket of working memory is incredibly small, more like a child’s sand bucket than a milk pail,” Bergman writes. “And it’s easily overloaded. When that occurs, information spills out, never to be remembered.”

Using a combination of cognitive science and common sense, One Bucket at a Time makes the case that the best way to get meaningful information from tank to trough is through a relaxed, conversational delivery. The audience needs silence, and lots of it, in order to empty working memory into long-term memory before being ready to fill the bucket again.

While most presentations focus solely on attempting to teach others, Bergman’s approach is different. He advocates helping the audience teach themselves. The audience should have plenty of opportunity to ask questions to fill in understanding, which are best answered clearly and concisely.

For Bergman, tapping the potential of presentations boils down to engagement, which he defines along a spectrum. Engagement begins when working memory passes ideas to long-term memory, one bucket at a time. At the other end of the spectrum are presentations after which the audience can effectively convey the presenter’s ideas to others.

Most presentations are not engaging. In the vast majority of cases, a mountain of auditory and visual information is sent, but little is retained as soon as the presentation concludes.

“Most presentations today are like playing tennis with someone who has a large basket of balls and isn’t going to stop serving until the basket is empty, regardless of whether you show any interest in hitting one back,” Bergman explains. “In such situations, if you came to practice service returns, you might be interested in playing along for a while. But if you came to play a game of tennis, it won’t take long before you find something else to do. And this is how most audiences react.

“If the audience is reading, writing, texting, scanning their social media feed, sending an e-mail or reading a document, they cannot be listening. And, ultimately, if they’re not listening, what on earth is the point?”

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.

Students hear more by not attending class

Than attending a class with slides


students sleeping at desks
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.

This study was conducted among students enrolled in a course entitled “Human Factors in Engineering,” which was delivered to students from four majors: engineering, humanities, management and technology. The course was attended by undergraduate and graduate students and was taught three times a week for sixteen weeks.

There were two separate streams of classes for the course, which was based on the textbook Human Factors in Simple and Complex Systems. For two identical lectures, two different delivery styles were used with exactly the same information presented. One lecture showed slides. One did not. The lecture that didn’t show slides employed a chalkboard where necessary to highlight visual concepts—commonly known as “chalk and talk” in academic circles.

Researchers used a twenty-question, multiple-choice quiz to test students’ ability to recall information from the lecture in four categories: oral information, graphic information, alphanumeric information, and information presented orally with visual support.

The researchers’ first hypothesis was that using slides would have a negative effect on what was said. They believed that students who saw the slides would have lower scores on oral comprehension. This was confirmed.

Students who didn’t see slides scored twenty-nine per cent higher in recalling oral information, and achieved higher overall scores with the recall of all information. “The presence of PowerPoint negatively affected the recall of auditory information,” the researchers said, adding that “graphic scores reveal there was no notable gain when using PowerPoint to display graphic information.”

Students scored just as high on graphic recall when professors used the chalkboard when needed, rather than showing slides. Slides added zero value, and had a decidedly negative effect on the ability to listen to what was said.

In addition to testing students who attended the lectures with and without slides, the researchers discovered they were testing a third group: those who didn’t attend either class but showed up to write the quiz.

Interestingly, those who read the textbook, did their work outside the classroom and showed up to write the quiz scored higher on oral comprehension than those who attended the PowerPoint lecture. They “heard” more by not attending class, than attending the class in which slides were shown.

Meme that says Eric Bergman's book, One Bucket at a Time,

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Slides lead to lower retention

And, yes, they are boring


One person sleeping on a chair in a space filled with chairs facing a presentaiton.
Researchers from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain concluded that slides impede communication, leading to lower retention by the audience.

Interestingly, this study also addressed the misplaced 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.”

I call it the gun argument of presentation delivery. You know. Guns don’t kill people (and all that foolishness). The simple fact is that jurisdictions with fewer guns have fewer gun deaths. Period.

Same with slides. Fewer slides equals improved engagement and less boredom—and greater retention by the audience. Best retention occurs when no slides are used.

The Barcelona study also demonstrated that eliminating slides improves both average and good presenters. In this particular study, two professors delivered identical presentations, each showing slides in one presentation and not showing slides in another. While one professor’s students scored higher overall than the other—i.e. one lecturer was a better presenter than the other—the students who saw slides from either professor scored significantly lower on a post-lecture quiz than those who didn’t.

The Barcelona study was conducted with a base of two-hundred-and-five students registered in a course entitled “The Psychology of Education.” This was a compulsory course for those working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Students were divided into four streams led by two professors. On different days, each professor taught one stream of students in the morning and one in the afternoon. For this study, each professor used slides for one class and a blackboard for the other.

The professors worked together to develop a nineteen-slide, forty-minute presentation for the class in which slides would be shown—fairly “standard” slides that all of us have seen more times than we can count. They also prepared a ten-question multiple-choice quiz to evaluate the knowledge students acquired from the lecture. The test was administered immediately after each of the four lectures and based solely on information taught during class.

Students who didn’t see slides scored twenty-two per cent higher on the quiz than those who did. In other words, by simply shutting off the projector (or simply not sharing slides in any form of remote presentation, such as a webinar), communication effectiveness can be enhanced by twenty-two per cent (and that’s without implementing a single additional idea from One Bucket at a Time).


zoom_fatigue_________________________________

Your audience is better off turning their backs

people turning back
The research is absolutely, unequivocally, 100 per cent clear. As humans, we cannot read and listen at the same time. Because of this simple fact, your audience will retain more of what you say if they turn their back on your slides, whether in the room or via Zoom.

Many of us already know that humans cannot read and listen at the same time. In other words, your spouse, partner or significant other is absolutely correct. You cannot be listening to what she or he is saying while also trying to read a text, even if your partner and the text are based on exactly the same subject.

The research is unequivocal. If you try attempt read the text while listening to your partner, you retain less than if you do either activity separately. You have to block out one or the other to get anything from either.

You cannot process written and spoken information simultaneously. Neither can your partner. Nor can any audience to which you present.

munich concise slide
Even a slide as simple as the one to the left overloads working memory. This slide was drawn from a research study conducted at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. I changed the words to gibberish, but it has the same number of lines, words and letters as a slide that Dr. Christoph Wecker’s research team used in their study of presentation effectiveness.

During this study, the audience retained more information when no slides were shown than when even these sparse slides were shown. The slide to the left was what the research team called a “concise” slide.

The study also used “regular” slides, similar to the slide below, which contained an average of thirty-five words each. Again, I changed the slides to gibberish, but regular slides significantly decreased what the audience heard and retained from the presentation. This led Dr. Wecker’s team to coin the phrase “the speech suppression effect of PowerPoint.”

So what does this mean to you?

munich regular slide
If you apply the six-by-six guideline (six words per line and six lines per slide), you are showing thirty-six words at a time, one more than the slides that led to “the speech suppression effect of PowerPoint.” You are making it more difficult for the audience to listen to what you’re saying.

More words and more information to process (i.e. graphs, charts and tables) makes it even worse. The audience hears even less of what you say. Ultimately, this makes your ideas even less memorable for the audience. In the interim, it’s confusing them.

They will get more from your presentation if they turn their back to the slides and listen, rather than trying to follow along as you deliver your slides.

This phenomenon is nothing new. We’ve known about the folly of asking an audience to read and listen for some time.

In 2007, research conducted by a team at the University of New South Wales motivated the lead researcher to say: “The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster. It should be ditched.”

If you need a visual because you simply cannot explain yourself without one, introduce it. When it’s no longer needed, remove it from view.

And carry on the conversation with the audience. Less presentation and more conversation is the key to improving your success.
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Turn standard presentations …
Into meaningful, memorable conversations with your audience


One Bucket Cover vF
One Bucket at a Time is designed to help you turn standard presentations into meaningful, memorable conversations with audiences.

For less than the cost of a single slide, you’ll gain insight into how audiences listen. You’ll learn how you can get more of what you say into the long-term memory of those in attendance, whether in the room or via Zoom.

You’ll learn to create presentations that tell a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. You’ll understand how to tell that story in a memorable way, delivering your ideas to the audience one bucket at a time. And you’ll gain insight into why answering questions is the magical topping to having your ideas understood and retained, long after your audience has left the room or signed off Zoom.

John Sweller, PhD, one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, writes:

“The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

“For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.
_________________________________

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Presentation insights delivered to your inbox!
Enter your email address to
subscribe to The Successful Presenter:


_________________________________

Forbes: Stop using PowerPoint

no-ppt
This article in Forbes magazine suggests that presenters should stop using powerpoint because it may damage a brand.

Citing a study at Harvard, the author points out that in a business scenario, PowerPoint was rated as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids.

The author says that research found “a more engaging and enjoyable experience for an audience with an oral presentation’s total lack of visual aids.”

Read the article.

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Zoom + PowerPoint = Hell on Earth

bored woman leaning head on hands
Doesn’t this article by @Geoffrey James at Inc. simply scream “TWENTY-TWENTY?” But this version of “Hell on Earth” has been going on since acetate film met laser printers, and bullet points became part of presentation vernacular.

The equation isn’t created by Zoom or PowerPoint or Keynote or Skype or Google Slides or Google Meets. It could more appropriately be written as “Reading + Listening = Hell on Earth.” Mr. James’ version of Hell on Earth is created by anyone asking an audience to read and listen at the same time.

I’d wager money that there’s both correlation and causation between the number of slides, the amount of information on those slides, and Zoom fatigue. As written information increases, fatigue undoubtedly rises. Why? Working memory is overloaded.

And it’s counterproductive. The research is 100% clear. Because the act of doing so overloads working memory, those who attempt to read and listen at the same time understand and retain less than those who simply read. Or those who simply listen.

Anyone wishing to reduce “Hell on Earth,” needs to separate the written word from the spoken. It is the one true path to improving presentations and reducing boredom worldwide.

Read the article.

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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.


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Is your audience leaning in to listen?

Or are they tuning out to text?


man texting tight
Interesting question, isn’t it? But in today’s world, it’s the first question that needs to be asked every time you deliver a presentation to others.

As a presentation skills resource, One Bucket at a Time is designed to provide the tools, skills and confidence you need to have your audiences leaning in to listen every time you deliver a presentation.

You’ll learn how to put the audience first. You’ll gain insight into structuring a conversation—not another boring presentation—that provides value to the audience while furthering your business objectives.

You'll learn to use visual aids effectively. Every visual you use will add to the success of your presentation, not distract (and therefore detract) from it.

You'll apply principles of face-to-face communication to all presentations—whether one-on-one or groups. Your communication skills will improve in virtually all aspects of your professional and personal life.

And you'll gain insight into answering questions clearly, concisely and effectively. This will enhance audience engagement, understanding and buy-in—and have them leaning in for more.

If you're interested in communicating effectively—in acquiring the skills to improve every presentation you'll deliver for the rest of your life—One Bucket at a Time is the perfect resource to help you.

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.

_________________________________

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Presentation insights delivered to your inbox!
Enter your email address to
subscribe to The Successful Presenter:


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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.


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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.

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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.

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Harvard University Says Slides Are Damaging Your Brand And Your Company

forbes visual for harvard article
This article in Forbes magazine suggests that presenters should stop using powerpoint because it may damage a brand.

Citing a study at Harvard, the author points out that in a business scenario, PowerPoint was rated as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids.

The author says that research found “a more engaging and enjoyable experience for an audience with an oral presentation’s total lack of visual aids.”

By simply not showing slides, research has shown that communication effectiveness can improve by twenty per cent to thirty per cent.

Read the article.

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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.

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How to eliminate PowerPoint, even if you’re not Jeff Bezos

Tens of millions of PowerPoint presentations are delivered daily around the world. Geoffrey James, author of this article in Inc., makes the point that “almost all of them are productivity toilets” that waste precious time.

Read the Inc. article.

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Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint. Here’s why.

Both Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos understand that the most effective way to communicate is to separate reading from listening. If effective communication is important to effective decision-making, should other organizations follow their lead?

Read the Inc. article.

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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.

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Elon Musk suggests CEOS spend "less time on PowerPoint"

During this brief interview with Chip Cutter, editor of the Wall Street Journal, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggests that leaders spend less time with PowerPoint in meetings and more time determining how to make their products and services better.

To get there, effective leaders might borrow a page from the playbooks of Amazon and LinkedIn. Both have eliminated marching through slides, saving time and achieving dramatic improvements in decision-making.

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Article explores banning PowerPoint in lectures

students sleeping at desks
This article makes the point that PowerPoint should be banned in lectures because it makes students more stupid and professors more boring.

And, based on my conversations with students and professors, moving bad PowerPoint lectures from the room to via Zoom has just made things worse, not better.

Read Bent Meier Srensen’s article in The Independent.

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How Steve Jobs "did it"



Steve Jobs set an extremely high standard for the presentations he delivered. But how did he do it? How was he able to give presentations that not only provided valuable information, but also motivated audiences to apply that information and teach it to others?

The YouTube video above is a clear demonstration of how and why Steve Jobs was so successful. And there are lessons here from which every presenter — and indeed every leader — can learn.

First, Mr. Jobs matched the needs of his audience with his business objectives. In this example, he clearly defines the future direction of Apple computers for developers, and how that direction will influence the ways in which developers can support Apple's hardware with meaningful products.

Second, he carefully structures and delivers a conversational presentation. It would be easy to imagine him having this same conversation with three people sitting around a boardroom table, or with 3000 software developers in an auditorium. He pauses between ideas to allow the audience to absorb what is being said. By delivering his ideas conversationally, he is able to deposit his ideas into the long-term memory of those listening.

Third, he minimizes the visual aids he uses. While one could make the case that one or two of the visuals did not add value (were the binoculars really necessary?), most did not distract from what was being said, and indeed directly supported his objectives. Rather than bombarding the audience with words on a screen, he minimized the number of words and carefully selected a few images that help the audience follow his ideas.

By using these strategies, Steve Jobs presented a completely new direction to developers in a way that enhanced understanding. I have no doubt that, by simply paying attention, developers could go back to their office and explain his vision to their colleagues.

And that is the true test of presentation success. If you’d like to test the power of this approach, watch the YouTube video now, and see if you can explain his vision to a colleague tomorrow morning over coffee in relaxed conversation.

Then try that with the “average” presentation you attend this week and compare the results.

_________________________________

New book encourages less presentation, more conversation

One Bucket at a Time shares secrets to informing, educating, influencing and persuading any audience


“The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

"For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

One Bucket Cover vF

John Sweller, PhD,
Emeritus Professor of Education,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia

Whether a presentation is delivered in the room or via Zoom, a new book is encouraging those conveying their ideas to embrace more conversation and less presentation. In this, the science is clear. It’s the best way to have those ideas received, understood, retained and acted upon by the audience.

One Bucket at a Time is based on the assumption that the only reason for bringing people together is to listen to someone share something of value.

“You can have a presentation without slides,” author Eric Bergman writes. “But you cannot have a presentation without a presenter. At its core, therefore, the effectiveness of any presentation can be measured by what makes it from the speaker’s vocal cords to the long-term memory of those in attendance.

“Once you understand that thought, it becomes evident that feeding into how people listen is the most critical presentation skill to develop.”

Using an analogy of a tank, bucket and trough, the book provides guidance into understanding and developing that critical skill. The tank is the information the presenter plans to get across to the audience. The trough is the collective long-term memory of those in attendance. The goal of any presentation should be to get as much sustenance as possible from tank to trough.

The only way that happens, however, is if the audience engages working memory to transfer those ideas into long-term memory one small bucket at a time.

“The challenge is that the bucket of working memory is incredibly small, more like a child’s sand bucket than a milk pail,” Bergman writes. “And it’s easily overloaded. When that occurs, information spills out, never to be remembered.”

Using a combination of cognitive science and common sense, One Bucket at a Time makes the case that the best way to get meaningful information from tank to trough is through a relaxed, conversational delivery. The audience needs silence, and lots of it, in order to empty working memory into long-term memory before being ready to fill the bucket again.

While most presentations focus solely on attempting to teach others, Bergman’s approach is different. He advocates helping the audience teach themselves. The audience should have plenty of opportunity to ask questions to fill in understanding, which are best answered clearly and concisely.

For Bergman, tapping the potential of presentations boils down to engagement, which he defines along a spectrum. Engagement begins when working memory passes ideas to long-term memory, one bucket at a time. At the other end of the spectrum are presentations after which the audience can effectively convey the presenter’s ideas to others.

Most presentations are not engaging. In the vast majority of cases, a mountain of auditory and visual information is sent, but little is retained as soon as the presentation concludes.

“Most presentations today are like playing tennis with someone who has a large basket of balls and isn’t going to stop serving until the basket is empty, regardless of whether you show any interest in hitting one back,” Bergman explains. “In such situations, if you came to practice service returns, you might be interested in playing along for a while. But if you came to play a game of tennis, it won’t take long before you find something else to do. And this is how most audiences react.

“If the audience is reading, writing, texting, scanning their social media feed, sending an e-mail or reading a document, they cannot be listening. And, ultimately, if they’re not listening, what on earth is the point?”

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.

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