31 August 2011

The Zen of Presentations, Part 44: The language barrier

One of the most common pieces of advice for people giving a presentation is to get rid of almost all the text on the slides. There is quite a bit of research backing up this up.

There is one case where I would make an exception.

If you are speaking in your second language, have an accent, or some problem with your speech where people might misunderstand you, you might want to keep some of the text. More than if you and the audience are both fluent native speakers of the language, at any rate.

You don’t need to write out every line as a bullet point and read it, like so many people fall back on. But you probably want to have a few key phrases spelled out in text. In particular, it can be helpful to spell out somewhere on a slide any technical words or phrases that people might not be used to hearing.

For example, I spent much of a semester in an undergraduate genetics class trying to figure out what a doughnut trait was. I finally realized that the instructor was talking about a dominant trait.

While people might be slightly annoyed by the amount of text, annoyance or boredom is always better than confusion.

Just to round this out...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The West
The Midland
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

External links

American translation: Dr. Doyenne describes how she prepared a presentation when her audience was not fluent with the language she was speaking. Excellent post, and the inspiration for this one.

1 comment:

Geekgirl said...

I think you and I must have had the same undergrad genetics lecturer. I spent practically the whole semester wondering why we were always talking about infectious tropical diseases. Finally I figured out that when he said dengue he was saying DNA.

Which is to say, yes, text is good in this case.