“When making a multimedia presentation consisting of animation and words,” Mayer
writes in his book, Multimedia Learning, “present the words as narration rather than
on-screen text.” Like any rule, there are exceptions here as well, but as a general guideline
for the design of PowerPoint slides, Mayer’s advice is worth heeding.
–p. 52, Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes by Andy Goodman, published by Cause Communications
Copyright © 2006
[the book is no longer available in print, but is available as a free download from Andy's site]
I was recently asked by a colleague for advice about using PowerPoint, and I replied, “Forget PowerPoint! If you are really interested in making powerful and effective presentations, learn Keynote, part of the iWork suite, or iMovie — either one is much more worth the investment in time to learn than is PowerPoint.”
I was reminded of this exchange as I read back over some Andy Goodman’s book, and the passage I quote above follows his description of what information is retained by two test groups of students, where one group sees a series of pictures and hears text read aloud to explain each one, and the other group sees the same pictures with the text printed on the slides. Retention is better for those who don’t see words on the screen, and even when the group that sees the text also hears that text read aloud, retention is still better when there’s nothing to read. The important point is that slides in a presentation should provide a visual enhancement or reinforcement to the point you are speaking about, rather than compete with your voice for the audience’s attention.
This is one of the great strengths of digital storytelling, done correctly. And it’s also why I wish there were some way to remove entirely the step in Microsoft’s PhotoStory when, after adding an image, the presenter is told to add text to layer over the image! Not needed…with the possible exception of a title slide or a chapter marker. Luckily, if one simple clicks past that screen, the image is left to stand alone. But most people follow instructions (unfortunately).