We’re in the midst of a PowerPoint revolution as more and more people take on the ideas of Cliff Atkinson and Garr Reynolds. That’s great – countless people are being saved from death by bullet-point.

But many presenters still see PowerPoint as a visual aid, as an adjunct to their presentation. A take-it or leave-it enhancement.

Here’s my proposition – PowerPoint is your equal partner in your presentation.

The evidence

My support for this proposition comes from the theory of Dual-coding. This theory was proposed by Allan Paivio. He proposed that we have two ways of processing information – a visual channnel and a verbal channel:


Paivio’s theory is supported by many research studies which show that when both visual and verbal representations are used, people both process and remember the information more effectively.

The design of e-learning applications has close parallels to the design of presentations. They’re both about transferring information from one person to another. E-learning design principles include Paivio’s dual-coding theory. We should take it into account in our presentations too.

What does this mean?

If you decide not to use PowerPoint (or any other visual aid) in your presentation, you are potentially missing out on the learning power of the visual channel. It’s like you’re driving a Porsche at 50 Kms an hour. You’re missing out.

How to use PowerPoint to exploit the visual channel?

Check out this post on application of visual-thinking to presentations inspired by Dan Roam’s book The Back of the Napkin.   

Other ways of exploiting the visual channel

It doesn’t always have to be PowerPoint. Here are some other ways that I’ve posted about in the past:

1. Word-pictures

You can paint word-pictures on the minds of your audience. Imagined visual images are also powerful. Research shows that imagined images also contributes to enhanced recall. So don’t forget the word-pictures.

2. The flipchart

The flipchart has been eclipsed by PowerPoint. In this post I compare presenting the same information – via PowerPoint or via the flipchart and explore the difference in impact.

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