Use Red to Sway an Audience to Your Side

It’s Valentine’s Day and what better time to review the research on the color red to move an audience. Red has a lot of power to sway people over to your way of thinking, if you use it correctly.

Just ask Olympic athletes who compete in taekwondo matches. It turns out, when the fighters are evenly matched, the judges give the win to the red fighter over 60% of the time, even though the colors are assigned to the fighters randomly!

German researchers tested a theory – does red affect the judges’ votes? They showed expert judges video of two fighters, let’s call them Ron and Brad. Ron wore red and Brad wore blue. As expected, Ron won most of the matches.

Then the German researchers did something clever. They digitally re-colored the video so the colors were reversed: now Ron was wearing blue and Brad was wearing red. Would the judges still give more points to Ron? Or would Brad’s red uniform sway the judges over to his side?

 

The result: the judges now awarded more points to Brad, the fighter wearing red, who was deemed to have lost more matches when he wore blue. This effect has also been seen in American football, Olympic boxing and wrestling, as well as soccer.

So when you want to convey social dominance, use red on your slide.

In another study, men were shown pictures of women and asked to rate how attractive they were, how much they would spend on a date with them, and so on. When the woman was wearing a red blouse, or even when her picture had a red border around it, men rated her as more attractive and worthy of more of their date money.

 

So if you want to excite an audience, use red on your slide. Red is a great sales color because it makes people feel excited and they mistake that excitement for interest in your product.

Learn more about how to use color to influence your audience in my book Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Critique of Assertion-Evidence Research

I read a lot of research papers on the most effective way to present information. So I was intrigued, and then disappointed, to read this paper testing one model, called the Assertion-Evidence model.

The study appears to prove picture slides with a full sentence slide title are more effective than bullet point slides with a topic title – at least for complex concepts. However, the research is badly flawed and the conclusions drawn are overly broad and even biased.

In this blog post, I want to review what the research purports to say, why those conclusions are skewed by poor research design, and what the research actually says.

 

1. Research Results

In 2006 Michael Alley, author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations, first proposed the Assertion-Evidence model for building slides, where the slide uses a full sentence slide title (the “Assertion”) and then a picture with limited text as the slide content (the “Evidence”).

 

In 2011, Alley continued studying the A-E model, comparing it against the Topic-Subtopic model; the typical PowerPoint model that uses a brief topic slide title and a list of bullet points, often including a relevant picture.

The results show that, for “complex content”, students learned more from the A-E slides than the T-S slides. On the other hand, they remember statistics better when they are on the slide than when they are simply spoken by the presenter. Alley draws the following conclusions

1. The A-E model is superior to the T-S model for complex content

2. The A-E model and T-S model are similar for remembering statistics, as long as they are included as text on the slide

3. The T-S model is superior for remembering secondary facts that are written on the slide, rather than merely spoken. However, this comes at the expense of understanding complex content

These conclusions are misleading and based on faulty research design. Now I look at the flaws in this research study and propose a new set of conclusions.

 

2. The Flaws

Michael Alley and his colleagues are to be commended for breaking new ground and testing different models to find the best way to use PowerPoint for educational purposes. My critique of his research is not to be negative, but to caution readers against rejecting other models that might serve your purposes even better.

The main problem with this research is the T-S slides were a mix of two types of slides: Type 1) slides with text only and Type 2) slides with text plus a relevant picture. In this study, 6 of the 11 T-S slides were Type 2 slides.

Type 1) Text-only Type 2) Text-plus-picture
   

These Type 2 slides are pure poison. Poison! We’ve known for the past 10 years presenting a slide that combines extensive text plus a picture harms learning. This principle – called the Redundancy Principle —  has been proven in studies by both Richard Mayer and by John Sweller.

The researchers should not have combined text-only and the poisonous text-plus-picture slides into the T-S model. This just gives an unfair advantage to A-E slides that isn’t even worth testing.

Instead, they need to test the A-E model against three other models, which have NOT been proven to harm learning.

1. Full sentence title and text-only

2. Topic title and text-only

3. Topic title and picture-only

Another flaw is the apparent researcher bias. Their goal appears to be to prove the A-E model, not objectively test its merits. This is a shame. The A-E model looks promising, but it’s only by being intellectually honest they will discover its limitations and improve it further.

Consider the way they ignore data that doesn’t support the A-E model. The students wrote a test that included five multiple choice questions. Using the A-E model, students did better on only three questions. What did the researchers do? They ignored the other two questions and only analyzed the three questions (questions 2-4) where the A-E model was superior.

Consider also how the researchers dismiss the fact that students remembered statistics better on the T-S slides, based on fill-in-the-blank questions on the test. The A-E slides do not contain those facts as written text, only as spoken text by the presenter. The researchers dismiss it as not important enough to offset the advantage of A-E slides for learning complex content, rather than unemotionally acknowledge the superiority of T-S slides in some learning situations.

 

3. The Real Conclusions

You cannot draw conclusions when the two slide models have so many things that are different. Are the higher scores because of the poisonous Type 2 slides? Or the superiority of pictures over bullet points? Or the full sentence slide title? Or the animations only included on the A-E slides?  Which of these actually explains the difference in performance? It’s impossible to know for sure.

But some things you can conclude are:

1. For important statistics, include them as text on a slide, not spoken text. Students remembered statistics better when they were included as slide text, rather than simply spoken by the presenter. This suggests there will be times slides with a lot of text will outperform slides with limited text and pictures.

2. Pictures don’t help students remember statistics. When the slides contained the statistics as text, students did just as well with the A-E slides and the T-S slides. The focus on pictures did not give the A-E slides an advantage.

Both of these conclusions argue AGAINST the A-E model when the goal is to remember statistics. Instead, they recommend a focus on slide text over images.

I applaud Professor Michael Alley for continuing to test and refine the A-E model as a promising direction for educators and other presenters. I encourage him to continue studying the A-E model to discover the elements that improve learning and the conditions where the A-E model is superior, as well as inferior, to other models.

Unfortunately, the only conclusion we can make from this study is that students remember statistics better when they are included as slide text than when they are spoken by the presenter or presented as a picture. The rest of the conclusions must be discarded because of the research design flaws.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Will Prezi Dethrone PowerPoint? Survey Says…

Will Prezi overthrow PowerPoint as the King of the conference presentation? Online buzz says Prezi is hot and PowerPoint is tired.

But a recent survey among meeting and event planners tells a different story. In fact, these industry experts said PowerPoint was a MORE satisfying presentation software to work with. Importantly, there were 10 times as many event planners who expressed an opinion on PowerPoint versus Prezi – another indication of its dominance.

What’s missing from this is research with PRESENTERS and AUDIENCES. Does anyone know if this exists?

I personally see value in Prezi for some types of presentations where the goal is to wow the audience, or for educators who practice whole-part-whole learning. But I don’t see Prezi as a PowerPoint killer for most business presentations which need to be shared internally, or printed and read as handouts. More likely, Microsoft will add zooming and panning features to PowerPoint and close the gap.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

 

WOW! Top 9 Tricks to Get Retweeted (Please RT!)

Want more of your tweets to be retweeted? The #1 tip is to keep your tweets under 70 characters so that retweeters can add their own comments like “interesting” or “so true”. That’s the findings from this study.

Here’s the top 9 tricks to get retweeted, along with a few things that won’t work or will even work against you, told as an infographic.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Should You Read Your Slides? The “Mayer Myth” Busted!

Some people are adamant you should never read your slides. Why? In part, because of research by Richard Mayer, author of Multi-Media Learning. But his research has been misinterpreted and misquoted, turning into the “Mayer Myth”.

In his famous study, he found students learned better when a speaker used picture slides than when the same speaker used text and picture slides. The implication: when the speech and text are identical, remove the text from your slides – called the redundancy principle

Some people have interpreted this to mean never read your slides. But that’s not Mayer’s point. It only applies when you’re using pictures to illustrate what you’re saying. For instance, if you’re explaining how lightning forms, just show the process on slides and narrate it with your voice, rather than adding the exact same text to the slide.

In fact, Richard Mayer makes this explicit on page 159 of Multi-Media Learning:

“The redundancy effect should not be taken as justification for never presenting printed and spoken text together….Presenting words in spoken and printed form may be harmful in some situations – such as in the studies described in this chapter – but not in other situations – such as when the rate of presentation is slow or when no pictorial material is concurrently presented. For example, it might be useful to present summary slides (or to write key ideas on a chalkboard) in the course of a verbal presentation or lecture. This is a research question that warrants further study.”

I’m sure future research will show it harms learning to read paragraph-length text from your slides, or read from a dense forest of 12-point bullet points, or turn your back to the audience to read your slides.

But we may also learn that it improves learning to read 5-6 word bullet points, or a long sentence that is broken into lines of 5-6 words each, over using no text slides at all.

So let’s not misquote poor Dr. Mayer, the way we’ve misquoted poor Dr. Mehrabian. Dr. Mayer’s research only applies to slides with pictures that the speaker is describing.

In fact, he explicitly says just the opposite: you probably can use text to outline and summarize your talk.

So let’s stop spreading the “Mayer Myth”.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.