How the ban on texting while driving applies to presentations
How does this apply to our presentations? If we put up slides full of text on the screen, we are distracting the audience just like drivers are distracted. Research has shown that our brains don’t do well trying to read and listen at the same time. The audience’s focus is over on the screen reading the text and they miss the important message we are delivering. When their attention turns back to us, they may find themselves confused as to what we are talking about because they missed what we were saying while they were reading.
Am I suggesting we should never have text on slides? No. We still have text on road signs, but they observe the rules regarding road signs. Those rules are designed so that a driver can glance at the sign, absorb the relevant information in under two seconds, and return their focus to the road. We should use the same principle when designing not just the text, but all aspects of our slides.
Here are some tips. First, build each element on your slides so that the audience can quickly understand what is new on the slide and return to hear you explain what it means to them. Second, after adding something new to a slide, pause about a second and a half before you start speaking. This gives the audience time to absorb the new part of the visual and return their focus to you. And third, design your visuals so that they are easy to interpret for your audience. This may mean different visuals for different audiences, even though the topic is the same, since their background and perspective may be different.
If you’d like to create more persuasive visuals, check out my book The Visual Slide Revolution for my five-step KWICK method.