From the Research Files…

Hi all,

I’ve just finished up a bunch of reading on presentations and related topics. Here’s a few items worth noting:

Gold, Rich. “Reading PowerPoint.” In: Working with Words and Images: New Steps in an Old Dance, Nancy Allen, Ed. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing, 2002. ISBN: 1-56750-608-9. PP: 256-270.

I particularly liked this paragraph as it relates to the common practice of posting slide decks on the web:

“The obvious problem with reading PowerPoint slides sans presenter is…that it is the verbal gloss that contains the critical information to make the slides meaningful. The slides are often intentionally obscure (or at least so distilled as to be not more than the essence of the talk) precisely so that the verbal gloss will illuminate them. Furthermore, to the reader, without being part of an audience in the process of group formation, the slides become dry and dusty historical artifacts, the interpretation of which becomes almost arbitrary. In other words, read alone, PowerPoint slides are missing both the crucial commentary and the mammalian pack-formation pheromones.” (P. 266)

You’ll have to read the chapter yourself to find out about “mammalian pack-formation pheromones.”

Greene, Jake and Scott Schwertly. Deck ‘Em! A Novel Approach to Presentation Design. Available for $4.99 as a PDF download from

An “Extreme Presentation Makeover” in short story format. Lots of good tips (though I wish there’d been some pictures).

Zoladz, Phillip R. and Bryan Raudenbush. “Cognitive Enhancement Through Stimulation of the Chemical Senses.” North American Journal of Psychology, 7(1): 125-140. 2005.

I’ve been researching the literature for a while now on the cognitive effects, if any, of chewing gum. There is no definitive answer yet (some of the studies reported improved memory function while chewing gum, but others were not able to replicate the findings) but I found this interesting article among a set of items from a recent search.

There is stronger evidence for cognitive effects for odors (mint, jasmin, citrus, etc.) – that is, pleasant odors, while emotionally pleasing, may also help improve cognition. In their experiments, Zoladz and Raudenbush found significant improvements in memory recall tests for participants who had been exposed to cinnamon odor either through the nose or the mouth by chewing cinnamon gum (hence the reason it popped up in my search, but I digress).

How is this even remotely applicable to presentations? Well, I’ve been thinking about providing my audience with cinnamon gum and candies at the beginning of my presentations to enhance cognitive activity.  It might help, it might not – I’d have to do some experiments to be sure, but it certainly can’t hurt as long as audience members don’t stick their used gum under their chairs.  An invigorating piece of gum or candy might be especially useful for audience members when you’re presenting after lunch, or at the end of a long day of presentations.

Update, 4/23/09:

Here’s a link to a CNN story about gum and grades.  Sure, the research is sponsored by the Wrigley company so you have to keep your skepticism with you, but still, interesting stuff.




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