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Friday, June 22, 2012

Projected Text is Evil

Don't project text in your PowerPoint presentations. It's evil.

Edward Tufte has famously said, "PowerPoint is evil." Which isn't far off the mark. It's kind of like the oft misquoted bible verse, "Money is the root of all evil." Well, it's close, but the actual verse says: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." The shortened version is close, but misses the real meaning and confuses the point.

I think the same is true of what Tufte said. I don't think PowerPoint is evil (you may have guessed that). But I do think that projecting text is. What's worse is reading the projected text while your audience silently reads the same words. But I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, points out that in an oral presentation you can expect the audience to remember about 10% of the material. If you add a picture to the oral presentation, the retention goes up, 6 1/2 times. But, if you put up text while you give the oral presentation, the comprehension and retention drop by about the same amount. So if you project a PowerPoint slide with the same text you're reading to your audience, they'll only take away about 4-6% of it.

It's not PowerPoint that's bad, it's the way people use (i.e. abuse) it that's evil. The neurological research proves it. A projected picture helps, but projected words hurt. If you want your audience to remember anything that you've said, use pictures that support your oral presentation. But, if you want them to promptly forget 96% of everything you said, go ahead and project text.

Edward Tufte would know just what to say.

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