The UX of Text, Audio & Pictures

Axiom: It is extremely difficult to read and listen at the same time.

About 99% of all presentations make this mistake.  They load up the screen with a ton of words and then the host proceeds to talk.  The problem is that people must choose between reading what is on the text or listening to the host.  It doesn’t matter even if the presenter is remote (like in a webinar).  You can’t read and listen at the same time.

This means you can only “single-thread” your information into someone’s brain.  This is accomplished either by giving someone text, like an email, blog or a book.  Or, you could give them a speech with no pictures the way a politician would.

However, if you want to “multi-thread” your information, you can go through a side-door into the audience’s mind.  Use pictures.  This is a tested and successful technique to improve the audience’s ability to absorb and retain information.

The best presentations extensively incorporate pictures to communicate their ideas.  Garr Reynolds has an excellent book on the subject called Presentation Zen.  I do this in almost every presentation I do.  For example: When I talk about Unexpected Wow, I don’t list a bunch of bullet points for people to read.  I show this:

Then I proceed to talk about the subject.  I don’t want them reading, I want them listening.  The picture goes straight into their brain as “Oooooh, unexepected wow is a happy feeling that we want our customers to have.  I should listen to how that works.”  This technique works like a charm.  Use Google Image Search to find what you need.  It’s free and a great way to get ideas.

Summary:  Use pictures and sparse working on your presentations.  This will optimize your audience’s ability to understand and appreciate what you are talking about.

2 replies on “The UX of Text, Audio & Pictures”

I agree that presentations like that are better in person, but when the presenter puts them online (or emails them, or puts them on the workshop takeaway thumbdrive…) as is they don’t make any sense. You can use the “notes” feature, but it seems like most people don’t.

Online presentations with no audio, like on, are an art unto themselves. I would never use that as an in-person presentation. You would have to make two different things.

The main use case I am describing is in-person.

Whatya think?