You could hear the jaws drop — The fortune lost due to this one mistake in your presentations
Everyone’s jaw dropped.
The room became completely silent.
Two seconds later, as what had just happened started sinking in, some loud wows broke the silence.
Then came the incredulous headshakes.
It took about a minute until everybody recovered sufficiently to be able to focus again.
The whole room had just experienced how badly the way slides are used in over 95% of presentations all over the world hurts presentations, presenters and their companies. It was just starting to dawn on them how much money is left on the table as a result.
This happened a couple of weeks ago in a training room at the KraftHeinz Latin America head office in São Paulo, where I was teaching 12 to-be-managers and a helpful HR lady how to present in a brain-friendly way.
However, the reaction of shock and disbelief is the same no matter whether I give the training in Brazil, Germany, Austria or anywhere else. No matter whether the participants are C-level executives, mid to low-level managers or technical staff. No matter whether they are businesspeople, lawyers, academics, designers or if they come from any other professional background.
What causes this shock?
An exercise in which I help everyone experience that audiences fail to hear and mentally register considerable parts of what speakers say in presentations solely because of how slides are used everywhere in the world.
Why can’t they hear the presenter?
Because the way slides are designed and used, and this includes high-end corporate slides too, is not based on how the brain receives, processes and remembers information.
In other words, the overwhelming majority of slides in the world is not brain-friendly.
The reason is that the approach to slide design is similar to poster design. What such an approach fails to consider is that posters we just read. But in presentations, usually there is someone speaking while we are shown the slides.
Since visual information always grabs our attention more than verbal/aural information and because the brain is unable to receive information from two simultaneous sources, we end up absorbing the visual and we fail to hear the verbal.
The result is similar to watching a film for five minutes, then going out to the kitchen for three, then watching it for two again, before going to the bathroom for five minutes and so on.
How much will you understand and remember of the film?
Clearly much less than if you watched it without interruptions.
In presentations, the audience naturally never leaves the room, but the slides distract them similarly as if they had gone to the kitchen or the bathroom, despite the slides being about the same topic as what the speaker is talking about.
Speakers and audiences alike believe that since the slides are about the very same subject matter as what the presenter is covering at the moment, the slides do not distract but support the message.
However, unless the slides are brain-friendly, the truth is the opposite.
Which is why the reaction of the 13 people I trained in São Paulo in January and the many others I had had the pleasure of working with elsewhere was utter shock and disbelief.
They understood that a ubiquitous practice which they had never suspected might be incorrect was badly broken and hurting almost every presenter, company and audience without them knowing.
How can you make your slide design and use brain-friendly?
There are three basic principles.
Reduce the visual information you show at any time in your slides to what can be absorbed within 2-3 seconds if you will speak while showing the slide.
If you show more visual information than what can be absorbed in 2-3 seconds, stop speaking to allow your audience to understand what the visual information tells them, before you start speaking again.
Synch what you say with what you show — don’t show the visual information before you talk about it, i.e. do not use your slides as cue cards.
(You can read more in detail about the above suggestions here)
In practice, there is naturally more to it. However, days of training understandably cannot be condensed into an article. But if you read my other posts here, you will learn a lot about what makes slides, storytelling and delivery, i.e. presentations, brain-friendly.
If you wish to have the full experience, you can email me or sign up for one of my open courses. The next one is coming up on 11th March at the Munich Creative Business Week.
I hope to see you there.