Updated: May 30
Author: Daniela Benešová
Date of publication: 16/2/2022
Digital technology offers a lot of new ways to engage the viewer. It is therefore important to choose the way that communicates the information as effectively as possible. PowerPoint has been used since the late 1990s. The main democratic has been a small and large business, with the intent of using this medium in business meetings and conferences. In later years PowerPoint was used across the world in all kinds of fields of interest. From the military to education. However, new methods are still emerging according to which the presentation can be made more effective.
It is important to realize that the presentation depends on the speaker. The visual and structure is a secondary, yet important, supplement to the message. PowerPoint used for education is a proven way that has led to better student outcomes. It is important to note that most studies date from about 2003, so it is essential to recall the fact that this type of technology was new and exciting. That study would probably not succeed today only on the technology of PowerPoint, but rather on the form of presentation that is following certain guidelines and rules. These rules are now proven that they increase the attention span and better the understanding. Application of guidelines is crucial for better outcomes, with that I will be presenting few of the most interesting ones.
Visual and Image
The rule is: the simpler and more stylized the text, the better for the listener- visual of the page should match a few points, notes, sentences or short articles. Everything except a message in the form of text is considered a distracting element. The accompanying image is welcome in most cases, where the listener more easily combines the image with the text. . The layout of the booth should contain a maximum of four main points. The four points on the page are proven to be the easiest for the viewer to remember and process the information. Ingestion of slides with information or pictures, long texts leads to disorientation of the listener. In addition, the color-complicated background with colored text can cause or annoy the already existing Irlen syndrome. This is a sensitivity to poor color matching and distorted graphic images. This sensitivity is caused by increased contrast, for example between black text on a white background or high contrast colored text with colored background. Background color should therefore be a light neutral color - beige shades, gray, light ‘earth’’ shades. These shades are suitable for use with black text. If necessary to present a picture, the image should be on the page on it’s own with just a few main points why the image is presented. If the image is tied to a short text it can be put on the same page with following guidelines: Image has to be colorful and clearly recognizable as possible with high quality resolution. The color image in study The Emotional Significance of Color study in Television Presentations shows that color in commercial use elicits more positive reactions than in monotonic or black-and-white colors. Picture catches the eye of the listener sooner than the text. A good quality picture can make it easier to associate the presenting message with an image and therefore help with long term memory.
Speaker and Ted Talk method
A very popular form of presentation is ‘Ted Talk’. Speakers adhere to the philosophy of ‘ideas worth spreading’ and ‘presenting to each other’ so it is mainly a spoken word that is only underlined by a few points or images. These presentations often involve a very personal and subjective problem and only work in selected cases or abstract topics. For most educational materials, the presentation is the main focus, the speaker stands and tries to fade next to the presentation leading the focus on the text and spoken information. If your presenting information does not involve a massive amount of data and is focused on a broad topic open to debate, this method could be a better alternative than a ‘standard’ presentation. In this method the focus is the speaker. This is also harder for the listener that is following mainly spoken information. Time of the presentation should not be longer than 30 minutes. With this knowledge you can separate your presentation in parts especially if presenting heavy emotion topics. That way the listener can still follow. Speaker is the main source of information here and has to be well informed and mannered to connect with the listeners. This can be helped simply by looking at the audience which creates contact between the listener and the speaker, which helps to concentrate and remember the issue.
Font size is derived from the size of the canvas or screen. If the presentation is projected by a projector, it is good to check whether the projection covers the entire reserved space, and the screen is fully utilized. The basis is to strictly separate the points from the written text so that you can use different types of font. It is advertised to use up to three types of font in a presentation. In most cases is it two fonts are optimal. Difference in font does not have to be diametrical, normally similar types of font will do the same job, which is to separate different information for the listener. A size of at least 22 points should be used for points and 16 for explanatory notes. If the screen is smaller or larger, it's a good idea to keep the scale and adjust the text size. Text scattering is an important aspect of page layout with that . Text that is more separate from the viewer notices earlier than text that does not have sufficient space between paragraphs. This is explained in an article by Halverson & Hornof (2004).
layout used in a research by Halverson and Hornof (2004) on a local density
Animations and graphs
PowerPoint as a program offers many tools for animation and sound. However, these tools are very outdated and essentially useless. The study, which examined animated presentations used for education , showed that animated presentations are too distracting and, conversely, students had greater test success in non-animated presentations. Graphs have the same theme as animation, although the official PowerPoint program offers x tools for creating 3D graphs and other options. However, these options distort the graphs, so it is recommended to use only 2D simple graphs, where the viewer clearly understands the presented data.
Presentation place and audience
It is important to know who the presentation is aimed at. If the presentation is intended to explain the school project hall full of students, it is necessary to work with the text and visuals differently than, for example during a presentation for a business conference. Awareness of who the presentation is for and what the message is the key. Working with the environment where the project will be presented is very important. It is good to find out exactly where the presentation will take place and what equipment is available. If presenting to kids, it is specially advised to not highlight text in red or green. Color Vision Deficiency is most prominent in the red and green colors. In children it can lead to frustration and short attention span. Problems with too much text and highlighting important parts can be avoided by working with two forms of media, digital and traditional. It is a combination of printed written information with more detailed speech presented to the listeners. For complex topics, it is better for long term memory and also it will ensure that the individual slides are not overwhelmed. If prints can’t be used, there is an easy rule to follow- if you’re not sure if the slide or paragraph is needed to be included, you probably don’t need it- therefore you should get rid of it.
Creating a presentation is not easy and involves knowledge of the field of marketing and years of experience with this issue. Changing sometimes minor circumstances or the visual of the presentation can be a determining factor in the success of the whole project. In these moments, it is better to rely on the advice of people working in the field who know how to engage with the presentation and thus guarantee a positive project result. Using basic guidelines is the first step of success. PowerPoint can be specially overwhelming with the presented tools that can be used, which are in most cases proven not effective or even ineffective. Knowing your surroundings, your audience and keeping these presented guidelines in mind should help with the next presentation.
Halverson, Tim. Hornof, J., Anthony. (2004). „Local density guides visual search: sparse groups are first and faster“. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
Ugwuanyi, C. S., Okeke, C. I., Nnamani, P. A., Obochi, E. C., & Obasi, C. C. (2020). „Relative effect of animated and non-animated powerpoint presentations on physics students“ achievement. Cypriot Journal of Educational Sciences, 15(2), 282–291.