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Tips to Design Brain-Friendly Presentations

The business world is full of bad presentations. What’s worse is when you’re the one presenting, and you can see your team struggling to understand the topic or to simply stay awake.As business professionals, you frequently need to deliver presentations, and you always want to be able to present your ideas as clearly and effectively as possible. Unfortunately, many of the traditional ways of creating your PowerPoint are not working with your audience, simply because they do not take into account how the brain works when absorbing information.

If your audience does not understand the crux of your slide in 3 seconds, it’s too complicated and probably needs rework. "Think of your slides as billboards". "When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus, which is the road, to process a billboard of information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you're saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them."
Here are a few tips to create effective presentations:

The brain can't do two things at once

Cognitive scientists say it's impossible for us to multitask as well as we think we can. The brain cannot do two things at once and do them equally well. When it comes to presentation design, we can't read text on the screen and listen to the speaker while retaining all of the information.

University of Washington biologist John Medina has done extensive research into persuasion and how the brain processes information. His advice is to burn most PowerPoint decks and start over with fewer words and more pictures. According to his book, Brain Rules, "We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you'll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you'll remember 65 percent."

If you want to create visually interesting slides, less is more. Slide design guru Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it's too complicated.

Less is more when it comes to text and data

The number one thing you want to avoid when presenting is information overload. According to the “limited capacity assumption” by cognitive psychologist Dr. Richard Meyer, all humans have a limited capacity for information that they can absorb and understand. Bombarding your audience with blocks of text and unnecessary data will cause them to lose interest and comprehension.

People can process visual imagery much faster than reading text. Thus, ditch the wordy bullet points. Stick to presenting only keywords and minimal text that support your narration.

Format the elements of the PowerPoint cleanly and purposefully

How your different elements are arranged within the PowerPoint is also crucial in improving your audience’s comprehension. Opt for a light, solid background with minimal yet tasteful designs. Do not be afraid to leave white space because the brain can process information much faster if it’s presented on a plain, white background, rather than a busy or patterned one.

When presenting related text and images, make sure to place them near each other on the screen, or narrate them simultaneously rather than sequentially. This allows your audience to form stronger connections among these elements and build a mental model.

Stress out elements to reinforce the key concepts

Guide your audience in building a mental map by having an understandable structure and flow to your presentation. Use organizational dividers like headers and section slides so the audience always knows which part of the presentation you already are.

Make use of powerful visual aids like cause-and-effect chains, matrixes, and flow charts to better communicate your ideas. To stress out any key concepts, repeat them throughout the presentation and in your narration. When emphasizing elements, opt for a bold font or a larger font size instead of elaborate (and distracting) animations.


Choose subtle backgrounds

Choose an appealing, consistent template or theme that is not too eye-catching. You don’t want the background or design to detract from your message.

Check and re-check spelling and grammar

This might seem like something that could be overlooked but it could embarrass you in front of an audience. To earn and maintain the respect of your audience, always check the spelling and grammar in your presentation.

Conclusion

Gone are the days of texty presentations and boring PowerPoints. Brain-friendly presentations must be the new goal in every business meeting so you can better communicate your ideas to your team and stakeholders. By following our tips and using the DeckRobot plugin when preparing your next presentation, you can improve your audience’s participation and achieve business success.