September 22, 2010

Are you fueling your audience's distraction?

Download audio here.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a class on healthy sleep habits. It was a typical slide show with several bullets on each slide, interspersed with a few clipart images.

At one point, the instructor put up a slide with six bullets, each denoting a type of sleep disorder.

A woman in the back of the room immediately raised her hand. When the instructor called on her, the woman asked, "What's parasomnias?"

Parasomnias was the sixth bullet on the slide.

This is one of the best illustrations I've seen for why you don't want to put all your ideas on one slide! For goodness' sake, this woman couldn't wait for the instructor to get through the other five bullet points. She had to know what parasomnias were. NOW.

When you put all your ideas on the slide, you are asking for audience distraction. They may not raise their hands and ask you to jump ahead, but mentally, they already are.

Instead of giving your audience a reason to be reading ahead and not paying attention to what you're talking about at that moment, divide up your slide into its separate ideas.

If the slide was something like this:

I would break it out into six separate slides, something like this:

Remember, whether you have six ideas on one slide, or six slides with one idea each, the presentation takes the same amount of time!

Don't be afraid to spread out your ideas, giving each one the focus and attention it deserves, and keeping audience distractions to a minimum.

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5 comments. Please add yours! :

Richard Glover said...

Thanks Lisa. That's an awesome illustration of a really excellent point. People try to cram too much nonsense in, and wind up with a giant, distracting mess. It's tough to look at, boring to engage, and really makes the speaker irrelevant.

bazza said...

Hello Lisa, I discovered this blog by random chance.
It looks extremely useful as I often deliver seminars at work to between 5 and 50 people. (I am a business adviser in the UK)
I have read lots of it and I am going to subscibe.
Personally I don't like to use any kind of visual aid because I feel it makes it more difficult to engage with the audience.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for your comments, Richard and bazza.

Visual aids have their place in presentations, but you must use them properly. Humans are very visual and visuals do help people learn and understand concepts. However, if a presentation is all about the visuals and not about the presenter, you're making a mistake.

Bazza, I encourage you to try some visuals; not necessarily PowerPoint, but images, props, handouts, demos or other tools that help your audience "see" your points. It's just another learning tool.

Kathy Reiffenstein said...


Excellent example of how to convert bullet points into something much more memorable and engaging. You've made it very clear so anyone can model.

As always, love your image selection...most particularly the adorable kitty.


Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Kathy! I'm a sucker for a cute kitty. :-)

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