How do you like your meatiest ideas — rare, medium, or well done?
Unfortunately, many PowerPoint slides that are overloaded with bullet points are simply platters of ideas that have not yet been fully grilled by the flame of critical thinking. The result for audiences is usually a debilitating case of intellectual indigestion.
We’ve all done it — we spend a few minutes thinking about a topic, chop up a list of ideas, toss them on a slide, mix them up with a few graphics and serve them up on a bullet point platter that we’re sure the audience will feast upon. There are so many ideas there, that they can pick and choose what they like.
Of course, the cognitive culinary critics will be the first to point out that this approach is a sure recipe for cognitive overload, since the mind simply cannot digest your smorgasbord of ideas. And if you read the points off the screen, you double the indigestion by overloading the mind’s dual-processing channels. But at a certain level, we don’t need to know the science of PowerPoint overload to know a slide isn’t well done, just like we don’t need to know the molecular structure of ice cream to know that it tastes good. The reverse applies too — we may not know the exact reasons for under-cooked PowerPoint, but we know it when we see it.
So what’s a technique for properly cooking a flavorful idea, and improving the quality of its presentation from rare to medium to well-done? Try out this recipe:
Tip: Invest a little time to get a clear picture of the quantity of information on your slides, so you can figure out how much more intellectual cooking you need to do. Take a single bulleted slide, and count the number of ideas you have there. Most bullet points represent a single idea, so say you have 6 bullets/ideas on the slide. Place each bullet/idea on a new slide — in this case, you would have 6 new slides. Continue to do this for each slide in your presentation. If you had 20 slides when you started, you should have about 120 slides when you finish. Now, choose View –> Slide Sorter so you can get a clear look at the raw ingredients for your presentation. The reality of the science of memory is that people can only retain 3 or 4 ideas at any one time. So how can you boil down what you’ve got to the 3 most important points? Your audience will only find your ideas nutritious if you’ve done the hard prep work of reducing them down to their flavorful essence. Let’s get cooking!