by: Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm
Those of us who are old enough may recall that there was a generation taught to give public speeches using index cards. Those little 3x5 or 4x6 cards would hold all of the main points, supporting bullets, and quotables that one would need to get through the presentation. So what happened to the index cards? For most presenters supported by PowerPoint, the answer is clear: What used to be on the index card, is now on the screen. In conference rooms and courtrooms across the country, juries and other audiences are too often treated to screen after screen of text, text, text. It feels quite comfortable for the speaker (it is, after all, easy to know what you are going to say when it is there for all to see on a 9’ x 12’ screen. But a great deal of research old and new is adding to the conclusion that the ‘text on screen’ approach is doing little to help the viewers understand. “Cognitive Load Theory,” for example, tells us that a human’s working memory is actually quite limited, and your audience is either listening to you, or they are reading the text that you have on the screen – they probably aren’t effectively doing both.