Scientific Presentations: We Can Do Better
If you as an engineer or scientist are still presenting your work with phrase headlines and bullet lists, you can communicate much more effectively. By building each slide (or scene) on a message, supporting that message with visual evidence, and explaining that visual evidence by fashioning sentences on the spot (after practice), you can increase the understanding, recall, and credibility of your talks by audiences.
The approach of using phrase headlines supported by bullet lists arises from the defaults of PowerPoint. Although many people use those defaults, they are not based on research for communicating information more effectively. In 1986, Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin working on the computer architecture of the day created a slide-creation program that they named Persuasion . Microsoft acquired this computer program, renamed it PowerPoint, and sold the program to millions of users around the word, including engineers, scientists, and teachers of engineering and science. Soon, PowerPoint and its defaults of a phrase headline supported by bullet lists became commonplace in companies, laboratories, and schools around the world,
In the 1990s, much psychology research arose for how people learn when listening to a speaker and viewing a slide or screen. This research [2-4] overwhelmingly showed that PowerPoint's slide designs are not effective for helping audiences understand and remember the content. The defaults leads to slides with too much text and too little visual evidence.
Sadly, the defaults of PowerPoint did not change to respond to this research. Even more sadly, many companies, laboratories, and university courses require their engineers and scientists to follow these weak PowerPoint defaults for presentation slides.
We in engineering and science have to change the status quo. The goal of this website is to bring about this change by advocating the assertion-evidence approach, which not only follows principles of psychology research for how people learn , but also leads to increased comprehension .
Such change will not come easily. However, the difference between following PowerPoint's defaults and applying the assertion-evidence approach is dramatic. Assertion-evidence talks not only are more focused and have higher audience comprehension, but also lead the presenter to project more confidence.