The term ‘electronic transparency’ conjured up quite a different image in 1989 than it might today. In fact, electronic transparency was all about imaging, and I’m pretty sure it must have been the birth of PowerPoint. Quirk’s February 1989 Product and Service Update section reviewed the Dukane Corporation’s new LCD Panel that projected PC information in color. “Interfaced with a PC and placed on top of any transmissive overhead projector, it functions as an electronic transparency, allowing real-time monitor data to be projected onto any large screen. Users can modify projected images during presentations by accessing the host computer’s keyboard.”
Fortunately, the electronic transparency was a new concept and had not cut into transparency film sales. I was about to embark on a relationship with Hewlett-Packard’s Media Division, which markets transparency film. When I flew down to San Diego to present the research findings to an auditorium-packed audience, I used an overhead projector and HP transparency film. Even an innovator like Hewlett-Packard was limited to this technology.
With today’s technology, the sky is the limit for professionals making presentations. My iPad has replaced the desktop flipchart. Presentations are no longer a series of pages to flip through, but are interactive by accessing websites and videos. Forget the transparency films. Today, I can plug in an iPad Pocket Projector (weighing less than 5 ounces) to present to a group. I love where technology has taken us in 25 years!
With the proliferation of presentations, one name comes to mind: PowerPoint. Even as a researcher, I have to remind myself not to get caught up in information overload. What I like about this 2004 article, “Five ways to reduce PowerPoint Overload,” by Cliff Atkinson and Richard E. Mayer of Sociable Media, is that the authors conducted years of research on the subject of using words and pictures together to promote human understanding. The article states, “This problem of PowerPoint overload is a serious issue for organizations trying to make themselves more transparent and their information easier to understand. Not only can it put an organization’s strategy at risk, but it can also degrade productivity, intellectual assets, and interpersonal relationships.”
The information gained through the authors’ research identified three important things PowerPoint users should know:
- PowerPoint presentations should use both visual and verbal forms of presentation;
- filling the slides with information will easily overload people’s cognitive systems; and
- the presentations should help learners to select, organize, and integrate presented information.
For a researcher, effective communication is crucial. What I learned from this article is that simpler is better. Check out this link to their article http://www.indezine.com/stuff/atkinsonmaye.pdf to learn ways you can apply the research-based techniques that use familiar PowerPoint features in new ways. According to the authors, the end result is less cognitive load on audiences, which can result in more effective communication of your message.