Important health warning:
Have you ever been presenting at a seminar or conference and noticed your audience exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms?
- Constant yawning
- Slumping in their chair
- Excessive mobile phone texting, tweeting and/or Facebooking
- Sleeping, and in some cases snoring
- In the worst case scenario, not even showing up at all
If you answered yes to one or more of these symptoms, your audience is exhibiting Soporific Seminar Syndrome (SSS). This is a very serious yet common disorder with one in five people in Australia suffering from it. The scary part is YOU may be the cause of this!
But how you ask? Your research is interesting, you are a great presenter and use more than one tone in your voice, you have accompanying slides… so why are you making your audience suffer?
Well luckily, I’m here to help!
Researchers have discovered the reason for SSS is Poorly Designed PowerPoint Presentations (or PDPPP). Luckily the condition can be reversed with a straightforward treatment – effective design. Please follow these simple tips so together we can rid the world of SSS.
1. Cut down on clutter
It is a common misconception presenters have that they need to put EVERY single word they are saying into their PowerPoint presentation. If it’s not every single word, it’s lines and lines of dot points. Your audience is trying to listen to you and read your slides at the same time. They are going to get distracted and confused if you have too much information and your slides are too cluttered. It’s even worse if you flick through your slides so quickly, they don’t even finish reading! Solution, cut down on the clutter. Chose one dot point that complements what you are talking about and stick with that! Better still use a photo. Your audience will have your full attention, and hopefully better understand and absorb what you are speaking about.
2. Use large readable words
This point goes hand in hand with the last. There is no point having small text that people won’t be able to see at the back of the room. Instead of losing their attention, lose the clutter and write with large readable words. The text below is size 18 compared to size 90. As a rule of thumb, never go under size 24 pt.
3. Pick the right colours
Colours that look good on your computer screen don’t always look effective on the big screen. Avoid using light colours on a white background and vise versa. Use contrasting colours for your background and text and avoid using more than 4-5 colours in total. If in doubt, stick with the basics – black and white! Finally, if you have the facilities, go and test your presentation on the projector.
4. Maximise the use of photos.
I can’t stress this point enough. Do as the late Steve Jobs would of done.
Have you ever watched one of his presentations and seen the screen full of dot point and sentences? No. He uses one image to illustrate exactly what he is talking about. And it’s memorable!
Image curiosity of http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life
If you do intend to use photos, don’t crop it and place it in the corner, squeezed in amongst your dot points, maximize its use. Make it a full screen image and incorporate minimal text around it, if at all.
5. Use simple fonts.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Steer away from detailed and fancy fonts. They look messy and cluttered on screen and make it harder for your audience to read. Stick with a sans serif font like Gill Sans, Geneva or Arial to name a few.
One last piece of advice, if you want your audience to engage more, set up a hashtag (for example #endingSSS) and encourage people to tweet with the hashtag during your seminar. People will be engaged (and not falling asleep), asking questions and promoting your research and research program.
This special concoction of remedies will hopefully ameliorate the symptoms of SSS, acting through the PDPPP pathway. By eradicating Poorly Designed PowerPoint Presentations we will be free to live in a world where all presentations are engaging, enabling us to be inspired by our new learnings and tackle some real life health issues!
Written by Alana Pirrone-Savona
Media & Communications Officer for the Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
The University of Melbourne
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