A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on a fearsomely complicated subject. Words and bullet points wouldn’t do justice to the topic, so I decided on a sequence of captioned images.
Apart from the presentation, the slides were required for publication. I sent them off and warned the organiser that he might be somewhat shocked by my approach. He decided it would not be appropriate for the proceedings, not least because it would diminish the shock factor, when I delivered the presentation.
This made me wonder whether PowerPoint presentations have two conflicting purposes. One for posterity and the other for the gig itself. These are in conflict. If you try and combine them, you doom your audience to the well-known ‘death by PowerPoint’.
Blow me down if a story didn’t appear in some of today’s newspapers which explains the phenomenon. The Daily Mail and The Telegraph (at least) carry quotes from University of New South Wales’ Emeritus Professor John Sweller. This is the man who developed the Cognitive Load Theory in the 1980’s. Crudeley stated, he advises us that the brain cannot process textual and verbal inputs concurrently.
So now you know.
(By the way, you might be interested to know that this story started its journey to the mainstream media on 23rd March, but I bet you the mainstream media picked it up secondhand from blogs or from Guy Kewney’s piece in The Register.)