Neuroscience just might hold the key to great power point presentations. That may sound like an odd statement, but a brief look at the “science of attention” could change the way you think about power point.
These days “attention” is a hot topic in cognitive neuroscience, and other fields. The term refers to a person’s ability to filter out a barrage of sensory input and focus on the task at hand. Even when people are engaged, their attention continues to shift. For example, imagine you’re listening to a fascinating lecture, and then someone sneezes. For at least a moment your attention is diverted. And in that moment you might miss essential information.
The reality is, people’s minds wanders with less provocation than a sneeze. It seems the brain is hardwired to constantly scan for things that need attention. According to one Harvard study, people’s minds are distracted almost 47% of the time!
Keep it Simple
One take-away from this fact is to keep power point presentations simple and prepare slides that allow for distraction. Not surprisingly, when a group of professors was surveyed about their use of power point, 91% said they put fewer words on slides, compared to when they first started teaching.
Keep The Audience on Their Toes
Research has turned up other useful facts about attention. For instance, the brain strongly registers things that are new in the environment and things that are strongly in contrast to one another. It’s easy to see how this could impact a presentation. If the pace remains uniform and every slide looks basically the same, people will lose interest. But if there is variation in the speaker’s tone of voice and speed of delivery, the brain engages. And if the power point presentation design template uses strong graphic contrast, and injects unexpected elements from time to time, people will register this with increased attention.
Engage with Emotionally Evocative Content
According to research, people are more interested in people than things. And people respond to information that evokes emotion. Including a few slides that feature people, and some emotionally engaging content, could enliven a presentation.
If you want to learn more, there’s a wealth of information online. A search on the key words “science of attention” returned 45,500,000 results!