Protesting Presentation Design: “I’m A Visual Learner! I Need Bullets”

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During an English Department meeting earlier this week, I overheard a colleague say, “I’m a visual learner.  That’s why I need to use bullets in my slides.”

Rather than halt the meeting, I decided it was time for yet another “Protesting Presentation Design” post.  Back in November of 2012, I wrote a post on the 5 most common arguments that I hear protesting presentation design, but I completely forgot about this argument:

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To be honest, I think I actually try to push this argument from my mind because it makes the least amount of sense.  Also, the people who say this to me often think I have no idea what I’m talking about… For that reason, we’ll defer to the experts.

“7 Lessons from the World’s Most Captivating Presenters” is a Slideshare presentation and also a really great article.  The third lesson we must learn is that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The article reads:

“There’s a reason why expressions like, ‘Seeing is believing’ and, ‘A picture is worth 1000 words’ are so universally recognized — and that reason is based in science.

It’s called the Picture Superiority Effect, and it refers to a large body of research, which shows that humans more easily learn and recall information that is presented as pictures than when the same information is presented in words” (Source).  If you’ve never heard of the picture superiority effect, please check out the 30 second explanation video below:

Source

The article goes on to explain how the picture superiority works in an additional test: “In one experiment, for instance, subjects who were presented with information orally could remember about 10% of the content 72 hours later. Those who were presented with information in picture format were able to recall 65% of the content” (Source).

So consider this:

PSE

Visual people do remember words, yes, but they remember pictures much more vividly and for a longer period of time.  “Not only do we remember visual input better, but we also process visual information 60,000x faster in the brain than we do text” (Source).  So if you are, in fact, a visual learner, your slides should include images to simplify your message and to increase retention.

How many times have you seen that standard death-by-PowerPoint slideshow filled with bullets and text?  What did you actually remember?  Chances are, you can’t recall that information today, and if you do, I can guarantee you that the presentation was boring. No one waits to speak to a death-by-PowerPoint presenter after the speech to rave about the bullet points.  People remember an impacting image, a high-quality chart or graph, or a powerful video.  “Sure, it takes more time to find and select awesome images to replace text, but master communicators know that it’s worth the extra effort to achieve maximum impact and maximum audience retention” (Source).

Consider pairing image and text in your next PowerPoint presentation to ensure you are actually developing a visual presentation that meets the needs of your visual learners.  Be sure to check out “7 Lessons From the World’s Most Captivating Presenters” here.

What other arguments do you hear protesting effective presentation design?  How can we work to get through to these people?

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3 thoughts on “Protesting Presentation Design: “I’m A Visual Learner! I Need Bullets”

  1. Haha – I think this was the very question I emailed you (out of the blue) about 6 months ago. “Hi, I’m a trainer and I teach *REAL STUFF* so..I’m not sure the pretty picture thing will work for me, since my students have to RETAIN what I teach them… So what can I do to make things a little more interesting without, you know, selling out on the information transfer part?”

    You were patient with me!

    Here’s what I learned: It’s not simply converting text/bullets to photos. It took going back to concepts, main points.. I kept asking myself, “if this was a Discovery Channel episode, what would I say and what would the movie/graphics to look like?” It really was an EFFORT to divorce the *script* from the *slides* — it took a determination that I wanted to make it happen, and lots and lots of iteration and reiteration.

    Now..I’m happy to say, that I think this new way. I’m a total convert. I always think “How would I package this?” and I’ve noticed that I’ve become a ruthless Less-Is-More presenter. My actual lessons are better (not just presented better). I know this because my students and clients are telling me so.

    So..keep at it! And thank you! This website, specifically, has been instrumental in my “conversion” to 2.0.

    Karen

    • Hey Karen! It’s so great to hear from you again. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I am so happy to hear you have been making the slow and steady transformation from script to slides… Such a great way of phrasing it! I’d love to see some of your “before” and “after” slides :) Congratulations on all of your hard work paying off. -AR

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