Researchers found that when PowerPoint was used, the audience had nearly 30 per cent less retention than if the presenter had eliminated the PowerPoint entirely and just talked with his or her audience. Just by eliminating PowerPoint alone, they became significantly better and more effective presenters.
Purdue researchers delivered a course entitled “Human Factors in Engineering”. It was open to both graduate and undergraduate students from the following majors: engineering, management, humanities and technology. Three times a week for 16 weeks, researchers divided the classes into two lecture formats. One format delivered with PowerPoint the other without. Researchers then tested the students in four categories: oral, graphic and alphanumeric information presented during the lectures and information presented orally with visual support.
They found that students in the classes without PowerPoint scored 29 per cent higher in recalling oral information than the students in the classes where PowerPoint was used. In fact the recall of information by the students in the classes where PowerPoint was not used was higher overall. They further found “The presence of PowerPoint negatively affected recall of auditory information…The negative affect that PowerPoint has on the retention of auditory information is similar to not attending class and hearing the information at all.” Despite what many people try to tell you, the brain cannot multi-task. As such trying to read the slide and listen to the presenter at the same time is next to impossible for any kind of retention. The studies found this to be true.
This next bit may surprise you. They also found that there was no advantage in recall by using graphics or alphanumerical information on PowerPoint slides either. The researchers concluded that better retention was achieved in presentations where PowerPoint slides were not used. They further concluded that if a presenter insisted upon making slides, it would be better to let the audience read the slides by sending them through email or snail mail and forgo the meeting entirely. The studies corroborate what we have been saying for years. PowerPoint creates a great handout but unless the graphics can produce an emotional response in the audience, they are of no use to the effectiveness of the presentation.
While many studies have shown that there is better retention when an audience can both see and hear the message at the same time, they are not referring to slides filled with verbiage that forces the audience to make a decision as to whether they will read the slide or listen to the presenter. Believe me nine times out of ten the slide wins out. What these studies do suggest is that if you can find a visual such as a photo, illustration or graphic that can evoke an emotional response in your audience, their recall will be vastly improved. If you are going to create slides with verbiage of stats and data, lots of bullet points etc. then your slides are only creating Death by PowerPoint.
Debbie Darling, ©2015 The Presentation Pros
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