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Picture Superiority in Presentations

In my last post I introduced the subject of 10/20/30 Rules for Presentations from Guy Kawasaki. The theme was to avoid text heavy slides, and simplify everything down to make comprehension easier for the audience. It’s a fairly simple set of rules: 10 pages, 20 minutes, and no font smaller than 30 points. But it’s a pretty stiff challenge to try and reform the way in which we create presentations, and edit down 40 words into 10, that’s for sure.  I do argue that the benefit for the audience of this reduction is substantial, and well worth the struggle.
Now, what if I were to tell you that there was a silver bullet to short cut the work of boiling down all those pages and copy into their elemental themes and messages AND raise the effectiveness of the presentation by 600%? Great, right? Well, there IS a silver bullet, and it’s called pictures.
Pictures. It’s that simple. We’ve all heard the cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well as far as memory is concerned, it’s true. For presenters trying to cut words from their presentations, pictures give you the best of both worlds: more words per page (1,000 for one image) and far better recall by the audience.
Pictures are much more effective in getting your point across, and having that point stick with the audience for days after the presentation. Science explains it through to a concept called the “picture superiority effect.” As the theory goes, a concept is far more likely to be remembered experientially within the brain when presented as pictures rather than as words. And it has to do with how the brian stores memories.
Concepts and ideas are stored in the brain either verbally or as an image – ideally, as both. Concrete concepts, ideas that exist in time and space – like a server farm, or a network hub, or a home page design – that are presented to the brain as pictures are stored both verbally and as an image. Abstract ideas, which need description or user imagination, usually presented as text, are only stored verbally.
Pictures are retained and recalled far more effectively than words. Whatever information is in your deck, if it’s presented orally, will degrade quickly. At best, only 10% of the information will be retained 72 hours later. If you communicate in pictures, then that retention after 72 hours goes up to 65%. That’s better than a 600% increase. Not too shabby.
Hopefully that will help clean up your presentations, get to your points faster and more clearly, and keep the audience more engaged.

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Saren Sakurai

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