PowerPoint and the brain

I’ve already written about presentations, but now I’d like to look deeper at PowerPoint and how you can use it to maximise the effectiveness of your presentations. David JP Phillips, in a Tedx Stockholm presentation highlights how to avoid death by PowerPoint. In this presentation he highlights a few key ways in which you can take your presentations to the next level by understanding how the brain processes and memorises information. Below are some key take outs.

One message per slide

If your audience’s brains have two things to process, chances are they are not processes the one thing you are trying to present at that moment. So, focus on one message per slide and you will ensure your audience are always focused on the thing you actually want them to be focused on.

90% of what you said was gone in 30 seconds

Avoid sentences on slides

Presentations allow you to mix visual and auditory communication. Use this to your advantage. Assist your audience in remember what you have said, by choosing a bold, memorable image which supports your message and a few key bullets / phrases on screen, whilst you talk about the detail. Having the same content on the screen as is being spoken increases the likelihood of it being lost on the user.

Size matters

Our eyes are biologically drawn to large elements, so help your audience by making the biggest thing on the screen the main point – not the title of the slide.


Use contrast to focus on the parts of the screen you want people to be looking at. Fade out redundant areas of slides to make it easy for your audience to focus on. Interestingly, David also suggests all PowerPoints should have black backgrounds rather than white, to aid reading and move the focus to you, the presenter, rather than the screen.

Six objects only on screen

Processing information takes brain power and the more information you provide per slide, the more has to be processed. Yet at around six items this is not an issue. So keep the slides information light so your audience can easily process the information.

In the end, David is suggesting you might need to have more slides and that is not a bad thing.

Watch the whole presentation below:

About Dan Leonard

Based in the Netherlands, I've been working on intranets and digital workplaces for over 12 years. Mainly in financial services for Learning & Development, HR and Corporate Communication functions. I am interested in the skills required by Intranet Managers and Digital Workplace Leaders now and in the future.

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