Tip #636: Make PowerPoint More Effective

“What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.” Joshua Foer

Here is a quick tip to make your PowerPoint slides more effective. It is based on brain research into how to focus your audience’s attention on the key points you want them to remember.

According to Mark Murphy, founder of Leadership IQ, “spatial cueing is when you highlight a specific part of the slide, e.g. with a colored circle or zooming or fading out the rest of the slide.”

This is particularly relevant if you are showing a chart and you want to focus the audience’s attention on a specific part of the chart- or there is a bullet point that is more significant than others on the slide.

He also says that “it’s even more neurologically powerful when the red circle ‘appears’ around 200 milliseconds after the slide appears (two-tenths of a second).”

His assertion is based on the results of Harvard research that determined that brain cell activity spikes 200 milliseconds after seeing words. They interpret this to mean that the brain has recognized the words on the screen.

In the past, I have used a variety of approaches to highlight key information:

  1. inserting colored arrows;
  2. circling key information;
  3. highlighting the information in a different color;
  4. using a different font or style of font;
  5. pulling the information out to stand on its own;
  6. zooming out so that the key information is larger; or
  7. fading out the rest of the slide so that only the key information remains visible.

However, my motive has been to make it easier for the audience to either focus in on and/or actually be able to see and read the key information.

It has never occurred to me to consider if these methods would increase the probability that the audience would retain the information. What a terrific side benefit!

A recent study conducted by French researchers found that a group of subjects shown a cued animation (of the inner mechanisms of an upright piano) scored as much as 75% better on a written comprehension test than the group of subjects who received non-cued instruction.

So, if we really want our audiences to learn and remember key points, we should:

  1. determine what those key points are,
  1. select a signaled cueing approach, and then
  1. introduce the cueing two-tenths of a second after the text appears on the PowerPoint slide.

If you have experience with signaled cueing, I’d love to hear from you.

May your learning be sweet.



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