Speakers: Text on Slides is not a Visual Aid

In my 8 years as a management consultant at Accenture, preparing a presentation was synonymous with preparing the Powerpoint slides.  “Hey Neill!  Proposal presentation this Friday…” – I immediately opened Powerpoint and started creating slides…

A lot of powerpoint is not Great Powerpoint.

Great Powerpoint can be a powerful addition to a great speech.  As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words.  Strong photos can powerfully impact an audience with a message.

Finding great photos is easier today than ever before.  Sites like Flickr.com or Google Images allow you to search through massive databases of Creative Commons images that you can use in your presentations.

There is a problem.

Most Powerpoint slides are not photos.  They are mostly text.

Written text is processed in our brain via the aural pathways.  Although text is read by the eyes, it is not really processed as a visual medium.  We turn the shapes into sounds via a voice inside our heads and process the language through our aural processors.

If you are a speaker and put text on slides, you are competing for attention.  

You are competing with yourself.

There are two voices competing for the attention of the listener’s mind – your voice, and their own silent inner voice reading your slides aloud in their minds.

Text is not a Visual Aid.  

Text is not processed through the brain’s visual pathways.  If you want to support your speech with visuals, use images that are processed directly through the brain’s visual channels.  Use photos.  Use simple line drawings like Dan Roam’s back of the Napkin visuals.

My Recommended Resources for Great Powerpoint:

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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