My wish for PowerPoint in 2009 is we apply what we’ve learned from research. Everyone has an opinion on what makes PowerPoint the best, but opinions vary widely. Research confirms what actually works for most people. There is not much, but there is some research that we can rely upon as we create PowerPoint. My recently completed thesis research showed that audiences learn more when presented with multimedia PowerPoint that follows Dr. Mayer’s multimedia learning principles than when presented with bullet point PowerPoint. Here is a quick summary of other research specific to PowerPoint slide design:
Alley (et. al.) found that students were better able to recall the main assertion of slides when presented with a full-sentence headline written as an assertion compared to a word or phrase headline.
Alley, M., Schreiber, M., Ramsdell, K., & Muffo, J. (2006). How the Design of Headlines in
Presentation Slides Affects Audience Retention. Technical Communication, 53, 225-234.
Bartsch and Cobern discerned that PowerPoint with irrelevant pictures can be detrimental to learning.
Bartsch, R.A. & Cobern, K.M. (2003). Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures.
Computers & Education, 41, 77-86.
Bradshaw found that test scores were lower when participants viewed slides that had interference (pink background, ornate font, transition sounds) compared to when they viewed interference-free slides (high-contrast color, easy-to-read text and graphics).
Bradshaw, A. C. (2003). Effects of Presentation Interference in Learning with Visuals. Journal of
Visual Literacy, 23, 41-68.
Mackiewicz found that audiences perceived 2D graphs more clearly than 3D graphs and that cool colors with high contrast were more attractive.
Mackiewicz, J. (2007-1). Perceptions of Clarity and Attractiveness in PowerPoint Graph Slides.
Technical Communication, 54, 145-156.
In a study comparing five serif and five sans-serif fonts in PowerPoint, Mackiewicz found two rose above the rest, Gill Sans and Souvenir Lt, in terms of professional, comfortable-to-read, and interesting variables.
Mackiewicz, J. (2007-2). Audience Perceptions of Fonts in Projected PowerPoint Text Slides.
Technical Communication, 54, 295-306.
So what we learn from the research is:
1. Follow multimedia learning principles (for summary of principles see http://www.jenniferkammeyer.com/research.htm )
2. Use full-sentence declarative headlines
3. Don’t add irrelevant pictures (or anything irrelevant for that matter)
4. Keep the design interference-free with high-contrast, easy-to-read text & graphs
5. Use 2D graphs with cool colors and high contrast
6. Use Gill Sans or Souvenir Lt font
These recommendations are not opinions, but rather facts based on research done by academics following rigorous protocols. So, my wish for 2009 is that we start listening to what the research says and developing PowerPoint presentations that will increase audience learning and satisfaction.