Ok, so you’ve got a big presentation coming up and you know that you want to make a difference and have the audience walk away with a good understanding of the complex info that you are going to present. What can you do to really make sure that you key points get hammered home? Setting yourself on fire halfway through the presentation or using trained animals both would be great, if impractical ways to accomplish this. How about two simpler ways that us technical folks always seem to forget as we pull together our presentations?
Audience Attention is drawn to LARGE differences that are perceptible.
Let’s say that you’ve got a slide that contains one of the key points that you want to make to your audience. There is probably other things on that slide (like a title?). You need to make sure that your key point, be it a number, a comparison, a figure, etc. jumps out at your audience. Background images, scrolling text, clipart, video clips, etc. are all swell; however, if they distract from your key point then they need to go away. Keep in mind that PowerPoint’s ability to have items join the slide via animation might be a good way to lead up to and introduce the key point.
People group elements into units automatically, which they then remember
The human mind is an amazing thing. We can quickly take in large quantities of information and rapidly make decisions about it. You can make this talent work for or against you in a technical presentation. Things that you place close to each other on a slide will automatically be considered to be related by your audience. A good example of this is labels and the thing that they are labeling. A bad example of this would be a graph that shows that both the price of copper ore and the price of apples have both increased by 25% in the past 6 moths. Both items would be shown closely together on the same graph and the audience would associate them. However, they really have nothing to do with each other (unless you are trying to talk about the cost of copper apples…).
Just a few things to consider when you are making that last pass though the big presentation that you’ve created — do your main points jump out or are they buried?