Our working memory is limited. Our brains can only absorb a certain about of information when new ideas are shared or presented to us. To make your presentation truly memorable you need to consider the limits of working memory and ways to reduce cognitive load. It doesn’t matter how charismatic and entertaining you are, if you overload the memories of your audience, they simply won’t remember it all.
Here are 4 ways on “How to reduce cognitive load in PowerPoint”
Build your presentation around your key messages
When designing your PowerPoint presentation think about what information you want the audience to take away with them, what are your key messages (think in 3s). Make sure these points are emphasized and explained simply without any extraneous “noise”. Include a menu at the start of the presentation and reduce the text on your slides as much as possible. If you are presenting live you do not need to have every word on the screen – your slides should be a visual aid.
Reduce the complexity of your content
One consideration is the complexity of your content – is your subject matter difficult to explain and therefore difficult to learn and remember? As a presenter it is your job to keep your message simple in order to keep your content memorable. This may mean that you are required to break down more complex information into smaller, simpler parts. Similarly, with charts and diagrams, break them down into smaller pieces and use animation and slide transitions to accentuate how everything comes together and highlight key numbers.
Clear the visual junk to reduce cognitive load
The human brain prefers spatial, visual learning and it has been shown that people have 6x better recall when both verbal and visual channels are used together. Avoid extraneous data overload and make it easier for yourself – do not try to describe what can be visualised. Compare these two pie charts, created using the same data. The aim is to highlight the sales on a Friday compared to the rest of the week:
The chart on the left requires the audience to work – they must refer to the legend to figure out what’s what whereas the chart on the right tells an instant story. The amount of “junk” on the chart has been minimized and the Saturday to Thursday information combined to emphasise the point being made.
Use imagery to help recall
In terms of imagery, spatial contiguity proves that learning improves when words are placed near relevant pictures. In other words, using images or graphics to support your text prompts learning. Just make sure your choice of visuals supports your key message. Imagery should “connect the dots” for your audience, so that they can understand more quickly what you’re presenting to them.
As you put your PowerPoint presentation together keep in mind the limits of human working memory – in other words, work to reduce cognitive load. If you aim for simplicity your information will be remembered.
For more information on how we can help you create memorable PowerPoint presentations please contact the Presented team.
Notes View in PowerPoint is often ignored
We all know that PowerPoint slides should be more visual and less text heavy. It’s better for the audience, better for your speech delivery, and better for engagement levels. Plus you look better when they are nicely designed.
But even if you create a beautiful, light and visual set of slides – you’re then often faced with the challenge that half your audience won’t be at the meeting and want to be sent a copy of your presentation.
Or they do attend, but still request a copy to review or circulate afterwards. You know this from the start. And so you “have to” add more text here and there to explain your stuff. And perhaps a bit more text here just to avoid confusion, or there to make another point, or for the sake of clarity, then maybe you make one more point. Just to be safe. And unsurprisingly, you’re left with a presentation that is frankly a disaster to present. It’s simply become a document instead (or a “slideument”).
You know of course, that you should put your script in the Notes View area, but even if you do this – they are unformatted and look naff.
The 2 version solution is not the answer:
So the widely suggested solution is to create 2, yes two, versions of your presentation. One beautiful visual thing for presenting, and one less charming but very informative text version for printing or email distribution. But you will possibly be doubling your work load and making last minute edits twice: most likely the night before. That might be manageable (yet annoying), but all too often colleagues will also make edits or give feedback… and the number of versions around can get confusing and overwhelming. And when you reuse these presentations in the future – that’s where you really start to edit in double, or quadruple…
Why do we care if text heavy slides are so bad?
It really is important that you don’t present these text heavy slides. The more text the audience is reading – the less they are able to listen to what you’re saying. Your slides are jammed, look a bit naff – so are not a great way to represent your company. For everyone, reading is like listening to a voice inside your head reading out-loud. Out-loud inside your head that is, don’t worry: they can’t hear you. (It’s the talking to yourself you need to worry about). So when listening to themselves read, your audience will struggle to listen to you, the presenter. This shouldn’t be a newsflash – but millions of presentations created every day ignore this.
The solution: use Notes Area (formatted) to avoid 2 versions!
Right, so just use one version. Use a beautiful light visual deck that will reflect your value. However, also use the Notes Area in PowerPoint to add the extra detail. Wait though, there’s more: You can style the content within Notes View so that it looks professional and complements your slide design. This is not the same as just viewing the Notes Pane beneath the slide (see images below).
Notes View in PowerPoint (don’t print this as is)
Visual slide with Notes Pane in use, shown in Normal View. These would be the slides you present.
Take a look around PowerPoint – there is a Notes Master as well as a Notes View: use both of these to create pages that will work well by sending via email as a PDF.
Choose to print the Notes Pages within your Print Options. You’ll see something like this:
Printing Notes View in PowerPoint to PDF – this preview is what you can then send to your audience afterwards.
Slide within Notes View – formatted, designed, extra detail added. Select “Print Notes Pages” and print to PDF in the Print Options.
…and send that PDF to those who weren’t at the meeting. One version is the best solution. Plus, this enhanced one version contains your script (i.e. the image on the left, which you can see when you present using “Presenter View”).
With your script there you don’t need to worry about having a mind blank mid-way through. And colleagues or teams could present these scripted versions too and help the whole company to stay on message…
(The minor downside of a PDF is that you’ll lose any cool animation – still, you could email over the PPT as well as the PDF. If you’re sure they will look at both…!)
If you think this Notes View in PowerPoint solution will help you or your teams, please get in touch.
We can help get you started. Good luck out there!
There is great zoom tool in PowerPoint presentations. With the zoom tool you can highlight individual objects, summarise your slides onto one or create a canvas with different areas to navigate.
The basic way to zoom in on specific objects is to apply the Grow/shrink emphasis animation. Select your object, go to the Animations tab and select Grow/Shrink from the Emphasis options. Go to Slide Show mode and you will see your object will now ‘grow’. In the Animation Pane you can edit the percentage size and timings to match your zooming needs.
In the example below I used the Morph transition (available in PowerPoint for Office 365, PowerPoint 2016 and PowerPoint Online) to create the illusion of a moving magnifying glass:
If you would like more information on how this was done, please do get in touch.
PowerPoint zoom features
PowerPoint has added some new zoom features, you could give these a go to add some interest to your presentation.
Try this! Open any PowerPoint presentation and go to Insert > Zoom > Summary Zoom, select all the slides and click Insert. You will see that this pulls all slides into one “summary slide” at the start of the deck and creates a separate section for each slide. Now play the presentation in Slide Show mode and click through – each slide zooms in and out in sequence, keeping any animations. To show selected slides only, choose Slide Zoom. To show a single section only, choose Section Zoom. Here’s a video showing this feature in action:
Really sophisticated zoom in PowerPoint
We often get asked if we “do Prezi”. We can, but we don’t. We prefer to use PowerPoint to the highest level to replicate the animation that appeals to Prezi users. And with PowerPoint getting constant updates its features really are going from strength to strength.
Our designer Ana recently threw this slide together to show off the Zoom navigation feature. Below is a video of Philippa talking through the animation. PowerPoint’s big canvas zoom feature:
This type of animation is great for meetings without an established agenda so you can click where the audience’s interests take you. This is really good for presenting to smaller audiences. The “big canvas” feel of zooming around one page can also help with communicating ideas that break down into lots of smaller parts: whilst still retaining the feel of the whole concept.
We love what PowerPoint can do, and we’d love to help you present better. Contact us so we can help you with your next presentation.
What is digital signage? The broadest definition is digital signage consists of any size screen displaying any type of content for any reason. More specifically then, those screens that you have noticed popping up everywhere – at bus stops, on the Underground, in restaurants, offices and shopping centres – these are all examples of digital signage which is being utilised to share information with you, entertain you or (of course) sell things to you.
Welcome to our office
Digital signage is becoming increasingly popular because it engages its audience more than traditional static signage which can only display one message at a time. It can contain an ever-changing mix of visually striking images and videos and has the capacity to be updated or refreshed in order to keep the content current and relevant – a good example of this being live weather or flight information. What is being displayed can change as often as the content creator would like.
London to Budapest flight map
The market is growing rapidly as it is now widely used by many industries. Perhaps the most effective and creative users tend to be retailers who use it in their shop window displays or to promote special offers. But, museums, stadiums, hotels, restaurants, schools, colleges, universities, local councils, hospitals, GP surgeries and corporate buildings are using digital signage too for staff communications and information for guests or visitors. Third generation digital signage is interactive digital signage – which allows end users to interact with digital content via touchscreens, body sensors or QR codes on smartphones and tablets.
New burger order page
So, you’ve decided you want to create some signage of your own but don’t know where to start? A quick and easy way to create digital signage is… here’s the big reveal… drum roll please… using PowerPoint! You can do this on your own PC or, even better, let the Presented team create an amazing presentation for you.
We link up with our friends at Presentation Point for their amazing Add-In “Data Point”, which can link to any RSS feed, database, excel file – for live updates to your digital screens, all from PowerPoint.
For more information on how we can help you create impactful signage in PowerPoint please contact the Presented team.
Should you consider visual learning when putting your presentations together? We think so.
Most businesses stick to established conventions, when creating PowerPoint presentations, such as: bulleted lists, headers on every slide, lots and lots of words, strict reliance on house style, a template and the company logo on every slide. Whilst house style is important to strengthen brand identity it is possible to create more visual and hence more memorable presentations by stripping out the unnecessary.
- Remove all slide clutter (e.g. objects, logos, text) which does not contribute to your message.
- Focus on what is essential on each slide and add more slides with smaller chunks of information on them – this will make the presentation easier to follow and digest.
- Slide count does not change the length of your talk so don’t be afraid to add slides.
The cardinal rule of presentation design
Stick to one distinct idea on any one slide. If you feel compelled to put more than one idea on a slide, don’t. Instead, to reiterate an important concept, split up your ideas onto more slides containing smaller, simpler chunks of information. That way your presentation will be easier to remember. Starting at the beginning, for example, on an introductory slide, simplify the message by focusing on the title without lots of other detail:
Visual learning and recall
If you find you are making bulleted lists you might consider pulling out each bullet onto its own slide, each with a supporting image or graphic. Why? It’s been shown that people have 6x better recall when both verbal and visual channels are used together AND spatial contiguity proves that learning improves when words are placed near relevant pictures. In other words, using images or graphics to support your text prompts learning.
What visuals should you use?
Do not ever use ClipArt, ever. It is as simple as that. It is outdated and obtrusive. Besides, with so many better alternatives available there is (really) no need for it. You could use a high-quality image to support your message and bring a real sense of meaning to a slide. There are many free (or reasonably priced) image databases online, such as Death to the Stock Photo, Freepik and Pixabay. With so many images available you should easily be able to find a creative one which fits with your message:
If you wish to highlight numbers, as well as using charts and graphs you can also use typography as a visual aid. (Word to the wise, as with ClipArt, do not ever use WordArt.) If you really want your text to stand out, use a good font and make your text LARGE and legible – give it some POW to make it memorable. Another benefit of using large text is that it ensures that your message is kept short. It’s best not to use large text throughout a whole presentation, as this isn’t overly engaging for the audience, although it is still clean and simple way to present your information.
Does your presentation tell a story? Then make it more visual with slide transitions and animations. People naturally look at things that move – so highlight your key messages with simple animations and triggers.
Obviously, how you visualize your presentation will depend on how it is going to be delivered. If you are presenting in front of a live audience you don’t need much text, so your slides will be a visual reinforcement to your verbal content. Your online or printed deck might need more text, or even extra slides to fill in the detail for your audience.
The human brain is at its most effective when it processes information simultaneously through both verbal and visual learning so for a truly memorable presentation use diagrams, photos, flow charts, illustrations – any kind of image that will support your slide’s message while you speak.