Visuals and Audio compete, constantly

by | Feb 7, 2021 | Visuals, Webinars

Your audience has ears, and eyes. But they have one language processing center in their brain. So at any moment, they’re focused on what they’re looking at or what they’re hearing. Never both. ONE Of those two is getting pushed into the background.

If you’re reading the bullets, they’re reading ahead of what you’re saying. If your voiceover is too close to what’s on screen, they’ll know it’s safe to stop watching. So they just half-listen while they check their email.

A Slide with a lot of information on it creates tension. The audience starts examining it as quickly as possible, and ignores what you are saying. They don’t know how long the slide will stay up.

So, If there’s a complex diagram on screen, some will stop listening to you so they can focus on understanding the diagram before the slide goes away. And we know that’s also true for slides with a lot of text.

Presentation gurus will tell you to have only simple slides. Maybe they have rules like no more than six words per slide. But in B2B, sometimes you need a complex slide.

Those rules were made for on-stage speakers, not B2B webinars.

Live, on-stage presenters can get away with having a handful of slides. The audience has lots to look at, like a speaker on a stage, moving around and engaging with an audience.

You don’t have that. Even if you’re streaming video of yourself, a picture of you at your desk is not a compelling visual.

So the job of the slides is to stand in for all the visual parts of a live speech. To give the audience a replacement for someone walking around, showing facial expressions, gestures, whatever.

The slide presentation is a small… spectacle.

So we use infographics, and striking visuals, and most important — movement. Lots of movement.

For most people, attention priority goes to the visual first, then the audio. When a slide comes onscreen, they quickly scan it, and make an instant decision about whether they should focus on what you’re saying or what’s on screen. The only time a slide loses that contest is when it doesn’t have much on it. Or if the information is repetition from earlier.

Otherwise, the slide will win the first seconds of audience attention, instead of your voice, every time.

That means every slide with bullets, and practically every diagram, should be built up. Not thrown up. So the audience doesn’t feel a compulsion to ingest that information on the screen, before it goes away.

I promise you, in a tv show or movie, if a narrator’s voice comes on while you’re looking at the screen, you pay attention to the narrator. Because as an audience we’ve been trained to know the narrator is giving us information we’ll need. This works the same way.

Most webinars are boring because the speaker supports the slide. That’s the opposite of how people prefer to take on audio and visual information.

In case I haven’t gotten my point across — YOU should be the priority. You’re what they should pay attention to first, and most. The screen supports you, not the other way around.