A number of communication experts have recommended slide design as follows:
- A slide title that makes a complete statement (often suggested to be a complete grammatical sentence)
- An image that provides evidence of the statement
In an article, “Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides,” Michael Alley of the Pennsylvania State College of Engineering discusses the concept of assertion-evidence design. This means that the slide title is an assertion, a statement, and the body of the slide provides some evidence for that assertion. The article’s context is technical presentations and includes a study showing that students did better on an exam when the presentations were done using assertion-evidence design.
Actually, most teaching follows this scheme. For example, I just made a assertion that assertion-evidence led to better student exam results, and then showed you the slides as evidence.
I call this the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM method. It’s the opposite of the show ‘n’ tell that you may remember from 6th grade, because first you tell (in the slide title and by speaking out the statement), and then you show (by using a visual, and explaining it).
The visual can be a graph, a photo, or a diagram.
Here’s a before and after slide from the article:
The topic may be too technical for you (it is for me), but when you look at both slides, two conclusions are clear:
- Making an actual statement in the title is very helpful for understanding the point of the slide
- Images are helpful for making concepts clear
The Tell ‘n’ ShowSM method applies to business use, not only teaching technical topics! In a business environment, you want your audience to clearly understand what you’re saying. Whether you’re giving a persuasive presentation or not, audience comprehension should always be your first goal.
Here’s a slide that I sometimes use when discussing how to create effective presentations, shown in 2 versions. Which is more effective?
Do you see how the statement at the top is clearer in the second example? And how the 3 components catch your attention much more when they’re in a diagram? (Note: You can create this type of diagram very easily with PowerPoint‘s SmartArt feature, available in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010.)
This slide comparison brings out a third point, namely that bullets can’t show relationships By turning the bulleted text into a diagram, I’m making clear that you a presentation involves starting with your content, then designing the slides, and finally delivering.
I’m not a purist when it comes to full sentences in the title. I could have said, “A presentation’s 3 components” and it would also be clear. I think that “Annual sales up 7%” is as clear as “Annual sales were up 7%.” The difference is only a matter of adding a verb, or not. The important point is that the title should say something, not be just a heading. So, “Annual sales” would not be a good title.
Try doing a makeover of an existing presentation that has lots of bullets. For each slide, use the slide title to tell your main point, and then use the body of the slide to show it visually. You’ll be amazed at the results!
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Leave a comment with some before and after titles from your presentations!
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