Help Your Audience Remember Your Points With These 3 Techniques for Highlighting Important Words: by Ellen Finkelstein

Help Your Audience Remember Your Points With These 3 Techniques for Highlighting Important Words:
by Ellen Finkelstein

Created: Friday, May 6, 2016 posted by at 4:00 am

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When your audience sees a slide that is a sea of words, they will remember almost nothing. This type of slide overloads short-term memory and as they say these days, it’s TMI (too much information).

No matter how interesting your topic, when you present a slide full of text, people read it. They can read faster than you can talk, so they read ahead of you. In order to understand what they’re reading, they shut out your voice.

When they’re finished reading, they turn their attention back to you and discover that you’re talking about content they’ve already read! So they tune out.

The best solution is to use fewer words. You can do this by dividing up a slide with 5 bullet points into 5 slides, each with an image that illustrates the point. When I work with my clients, we also edit, edit, edit.

But if you think you need all of that text on the slide, you can help your audience understand and remember more by highlighting important words. This technique makes the words stand out, so people notice them—and remember them.

Here are 3 techniques you can use to make key words stand out.

1. Use a Contrasting Color for Key Words

Research shows that people skim when they read on-screen. You can help people find the important words by making them a different color. Just follow these steps:

  1. Select the key word or words.
  2. On the Home tab, click the Down arrow next to the Font Color button in the Font group and choose a new color.

Remember that the new color has to contrast with both your slide background and the rest of the text. Do pay attention to psychological effects of certain colors; if you’re talking about income, red, which sometimes denotes loss, might be inappropriate. Likewise, if you’re presenting bad news, shades of pink might come across as frivolous.

2. Use Simple Animation to Highlight Words

I generally hate animation for text unless you’re creating a sales video. But you can use it to control when people see your text. Just realize that the animation should be as simple as possible; in one research study, animation reduced the amount of content people remembered.

In this technique, you put a contrasting rectangle behind the text and click to make it appear when you’re ready to discuss the related text. Here are the steps:

  1. On the Home tab in the Drawing group, choose the Rectangle shape.
  2. Drag across a word or words until the rectangle covers the text.
  3. To remove the outline, on the Format tab, click the Shape Outline button and choose No Outline.
  4. To specify the rectangle’s fill, click the Shape Fill button and choose an appropriate color. The color needs to be a strong contrast from the text, yet show up against the background.
  5. In PowerPoint 2010 and later, click the Animations tab. Choose Animations> Custom Animation in 2007.
  6. Choose Add Animation> Entrance> Fade or Appear. You can choose any entrance animation you want, but keep it mild.
  7. Set the parameters for the animation on the Animations tab or at the top of the Custom Animation task pane. The default for the Fade animation usually works well. Keep the On Click setting so you can control the timing as you speak.
  8. Right-click the rectangle, and choose Send to Back.
Tip: After creating and animating one rectangle, simply copy and paste. Then move it to the next set of words and resize as necessary. The animation will be copied with the rectangle. When they’re all done, you can select them all, right-click and choose Send to Back.

Here is the result in Slide Show view after 3 clicks.

3. Turn the Bulleted Text into SmartArt

I love SmartArt because it help make text more graphical. One layout works well to help you highlight words and it’s especially useful for lists like the one at the top of this blog post, which has a colon after a couple of words on each line.

Using the Tab List SmartArt layout, you can turn it into this. The audience now easily sees the 4 categories because they are visually set apart from the rest of the text.

Here are the steps to create this effect:

  1. Click inside the text placeholder with the text and choose Home tab, Convert to SmartArt.
  2. Choose More SmartArt Graphics at the bottom of the gallery.
  3. In the List or category, choose the Tab List layout and click OK.

  4. In the Text pop-out, click just in front of the first letter after the colon and backspace until you have deleted the space and the colon.
  5. Press Enter to move the text after the colon to a new line and then press the Tab key to indent it. You’ll see the second line of text pop to the right side of the SmartArt. In some cases, this text will be white on a white background. If that happens, select it and change the font color.

Continue to restructure the text for all of the lines of text, as you see here.

Tip: You may want to resize the text. You can select it in the Text pop-up and use the Font Size control on the Home tab.

Will one of these techniques be useful for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Ellen FinkelsteinEllen Finkelstein is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and author of several PowerPoint, Flash, and AutoCAD books. She also holds webinars on presenting skills on a regular basis.

Her company, Ellen Finkelstein, Inc. helps clients create presentations that communicate clearly and achieve their goals. Her site offers PowerPoint tips, and a selection of free backgrounds.

See Also: Ellen Finkelstein on Indezine

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