How to present without overwhelming the audience

October 29, 2019

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Have you ever sat in a presentation where the speaker talked through slide after slide of overcrowded content? You probably felt bored and disinterested at the time, but the technical definition is cognitive overload. If you’re unsure what this means, we’ve provided some more details below – and some great tips on how to avoid this in your presentations. 

Simplify to amplify

Why? Because you are aiming to inspire your audience and make them feel empowered to take action. But cognitive overload has the exact opposite effect. When presented with too many facts at once, people tend to feel overwhelmed and confused, and they switch off.  
Ask yourself: ‘What do I want my audience to remember by the end of this presentation?’ 
Let’s take a look at an example of cognitive overload in PowerPoint. In the slide deck below you’ll see a slide with several data charts and graphics. There’s a lot going on, so the audience won’t know where to look as they listen to the speaker.   

Busy PowerPoint slide

Zoom in on data

A great way to make the information more digestible for your audience is to spread each chart or graph on individual slides and then link them all up by using the zoom option. In the video below, you can see Russell using the Slide Zoom tool in PowerPoint. 
The result is a much sleeker presentation, where the audience can decide which area to explore first and in which order. This technique works well to focus the audience and remove any other distractions from the screen. 


Using the Slide Zoom tool in PowerPoint

Presenters can use this in the latest version of PowerPoint or if you have Office 365. Did you notice how quickly he turned a busy slide into a deck with several sections that transition smoothly when presenting? 
What Russell did here is not just splitting data up onto separate slides, but making the information easier to process. As a result, the information can be presented in a completely different way, a more conversational style, where the audience can choose which section to look at each time. This approach helps the audience understand how everything is connected while switching attention from one graph to another.
The example above demonstrates how complex data can be presented in a more bitesize format thus not overloading the audience with too much data. As presenters, it’s important to value the time you have with our audience members and make your message accessible.  After all, you want your presentation to be memorable and inspiring. 
Check out some of our recent presentation designs for inspiration. If you’d like some advice or assistance, get in touch to arrange a free consultation with a member of our team: [email protected]  

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