By Ed Pauzer
Visuals are not meant to be the center of the training or replace the facilitator. But too often they do both. Use visuals to enhance memory and complement the instruction.
Common Pitfalls with Visuals
It is common to see dozens of words written in an unreadable, small font on a single slide. The instructor makes it even more forgettable by reading each slide to enhance memory loss. When an instructor reads every word to the class, this causes what educational psychologists call switching, the inability to read and listen at the same time. Reading and listening use the same part of the brain and doing both at the same time are conflicting activities for the brain.
These pitfalls are magnified when a PowerPoint presentation is given as a handout with three slides per page. What is the first thing we do? We flip through to see how many slides there are and what the last slide is.
Overcoming These Pitfalls
A slide should express only one idea. Here are a few tips for your slide.
- Try to replace a sentence with a key phrase. Replace a phrase with a key word and replace a key word with a picture.
- Use a San Serif font as they are easier to read. You can download free fronts from dafont.com or 1001freefonts.
- Font Size. You should be able to see the words from the back of the room.
- Screen Real Estate. The high rent area of the slide is in the middle. If there is not anything prominent in the middle, we use the Z eye movement pattern, the route the eye travels when scanning a slide.
- Time and Space. Keep text close to the graphic as it allows for quicker transfer of information. The reader is not forced to scan the screen to align the text to a graphic.
- Images should be purposeful and support the instructional goals. They are more likely to invoke an emotion and provide a connection. Ensure you have permission to use images.
Make your handout a takeaway and not a throwaway. Design your handout as you would your content, thoughtfully and with purpose. Handouts should be interactive so that the learner is engaged in the learning process. Activities to include in your handout
- Either/Or. Assess current knowledge about the content
- Completion with a word bank. Provide key words for your content
- Test for knowledge or understanding
- Action plan. Process information
- Represent key points visually to aid in retention
- Blank page. Take notes, draw, or doodle
Lastly, when it comes to visuals, keep the learner in the forefront. How does this help the learner grasp the content? Every visual needs to reinforce the performance objectives or learners’ needs. If the visual does not, remove it. Your learner will spend more time trying to think about the visual than learning the content.
I hope this helps you get the picture.