And Now…The Science Bit

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 by Simon Morton

The Worlds of presentations and psychology converge on an increasingly frequent basis. It’s a natural link – clear communication is based on two factors; expression and reception. As a presenter, you need to understand how your audience recieves and processes the information you’re sharing. As a result, the ever-growing number of books on the topic of presentation development and techniques all tip their hat to psychological studies.

Bravo. So far, so good…

Unfortunately the vast majority of these books get bogged down in the mire as soon as they get to practically relating the psychology to the art of presentation. They either spend a sizable chunk of the book trying to prove/disprove Albert Mehrabian’s findings or simply descend into a smorgasbord of cod psychology. Whichever route they take, it is typically done without clearly communicating what it means or, more importantly, what the presenter should do with this new knowledge. Ironic, really.

By far the most prevalent of these “presenting meets psychology” topics in recent publications is our old favourite Cognitive Load Theory. As Dr Chris Atherton explains in the video below, the entire theory is difficult to demonstrate empirically (although she has a damned good go with her student experiment, echoing studies carried out by Dekker Communications some time back).

The learned Dr. does a fine job in boiling this entire topic down into simple, practical steps that every presenter should take on board. Some you’ll already be aware of (lots of text on a slide is not a good idea), whilst others (the concept of “chunking” information to aid retention) might be a useful addition to your presentation psychology toolkit.

Sadly the video quality isn’t great but the content is well worth a listen so grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy…

P.S. Stick with the video until the end. In particular the comment on the danger of perceived wisdom rules such as Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule had me standing up applauding!

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