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PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid

Sometimes, even when a PowerPoint presentation appears engaging, people miss crucial details and forget vital information. The study “PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: a psychological analysis,” explains how to solve this problem. The study used cognitive science to ascertain how information on slides should be presented for maximum comprehension and retention, and it notes the most common errors found in PowerPoint templates.

Several common errors take place because the design of the slides does not account for the limited capacity of the human working memory. Generally, a person can process and retain up to four pieces of information at a time. If too much information is presented at once, as on a slide with five or more bullet points, people will have trouble understanding and remembering it. Limited capacity also means information must not be presented too rapidly for people to process it. Another common error is presenting information that lacks discriminability, in which text is difficult to read or visualize information is hard to distinguish from the background.

The Most Common Errors in PowerPoint Presentations

Not presenting bulleted items individually (Limited Capacity)

  • Items in a bulleted list should be added one at a time.
  • The list should be grown from top to bottom. The first item should go on the top of the slide and following items should be added in order.

When bullet points are presented this way on PowerPoint slides, viewers can process each point one at a time, instead of trying to process all the items at once.

Putting more than four bulleted items in a single list (Limited Capacity)

Because humans can hold only four items at a time in working memory, using more than four items in a list makes the information hard to process and remember.

While working memory can process only four units at a time, each of these units can contain four subunits. Thus, if a PowerPoint slide must show more than four points at once, the information should be organized into four or fewer points with each unit having up to four subpoints. This hierarchical organization of PowerPoint templates makes presentations more effective by increasing the amount of information a person can process in a given amount of time.

Using more than two lines per bullet point (Limited Capacity)

If the text for a bulleted point is too long, people will find it difficult to process and retain all of its information because of limited capacity. Long blocks of information need more than one bullet point on PowerPoint slides.

Using typefaces that are all uppercase, all italics, or all bold (Discriminability)

In these typefaces, the letters look too much alike. Such typefaces lack discriminability, because people cannot distinguish one letter from another easily enough. Readers might not read all the words before the slide changes, or they might misread a word. Even if they manage to read it all, readers might not remember what they read because they were focused on trying to read a difficult typeface.

Using PowerPoint templates designed to avoid these common errors is a simple way to make it easier for an audience to understand and remember the material. They will be able to take in each point at a time as they read it from a clear typeface, and remember it after the next point appears. People will be more likely to act on what they’ve learned when they truly understand and remember the content. Presenting information so the audience can process it easily will also make slide presentations less annoying and more pleasant to watch.

By using the above PowerPoint tips to create effective PowerPoint Templates, you can make your slideshows stand out. Your audience will absorb more information and thank you for it.

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