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Death By Powerpoint

Power-Up your Powerpoints

As he often does, my husband shared a YouTube video with me the other day. We had been talking about PowerPoint presentations recently and when I glanced at my phone I saw this video was a TED Talk on “How to avoid death By PowerPoint” by David JP Phillips.

It was quite insightful and if you have 20 minutes to spare, watch it.

If you don’t have 20 minutes, take 3 minutes to read my blog below where I highlighted his 5 tips as well as what to avoid when creating your PowerPoints.

In his video, Phillips gives five design principles that will cognitively and psychologically optimize PowerPoint slides. He says: “And if you haven’t used them before, they will make a tremendous difference to every PowerPoint you’ll be delivering from this day and on.”

Here are the five principles:

  1. One message per slide. Only have one message per slide. Why? In short to keep your attention and not be distracted by other messages on your slide. If you got more than one message, there is a good chance that the audience will be focussing on this one and that one or that one and this one. Just keep it simple!
  2. Working Memory. Understanding the limitations of working memory is crucial. Phillips bases this on John Sweller and Mayer who came to the conclusion that there is something in our brain called the redundancy effect. When you overload slides with text and speak at the same time, the audience’s ability to retain information diminishes. To combat this, use PowerPoint primarily for visuals and incorporate concise, complementary text.
  3. Size Matters. Phillips says the following: “Every time that you open your eyes for the rest of your life, you will focus on four things: moving objects, signalling colours, like red, orange, and yellow, contrast-rich objects, and big objects for the rest of your life.” How often is the headline the most important part in the PowerPoint? People are naturally drawn to big, high-contrast objects. To guide your audience’s attention effectively, make the most important elements on your slide the largest. This principle ensures that key information stands out and is more likely to be remembered.
  4. Utilise Contrast. Contrast is a powerful tool for controlling focus. Use it to highlight important elements and direct the audience’s gaze where you want it. By doing so, you can keep your audience engaged and ensure they grasp critical points. Also: “Now, there’s a big drawback with PowerPoints, and that is that the majority of companies on this earth today persist in having white backgrounds in PowerPoint. Look at that. Oh, it’s bright, it’s shiny, could you tell me who has the highest contrast, me or the screen? Well, the screen. Who’s usually the biggest, me or the screen? Well, the screen.” says Phillips. Consider using darker backgrounds to reduce eye strain and allow the audience to focus on the content.
  5. Objects – Minimalist Approach. According to him this is one of the most severe principles. There are many ideas of how many objects you’re supposed to have in a Powerpoint. The magical number is six. Not five, not severn, only six. In future if you have more than six objects, know that your audience will have to use 500% more energy and cognitive resources to understand your Powerpoint. (he uses a great example in the video to understand this better).

In essence, David JP Phillips advocates for a user-centric approach to PowerPoint design. By understanding the cognitive processes of your audience and following these design principles, you can create presentations that are not only visually appealing but also highly effective in conveying your message.

If you want us to assist with applying these principles to your PowerPoint Presentations, feel free to send me a email.

Yours in creative design,
Esté

If you want to watch the video as well:

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Studio Hours

Monday – Thursday
08:00 to 16:30
Friday
08:00 to 16:00
Saturdays, Sundays & SA Public Holidays
Closed

Contact us

t: +27 (0)21 919 3831
m: +27 (0)83 231 6912
e: feedback@twofishesdesign.co.za

Copyright Two Fishes Design 2024 – All Rights Reserved

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