In the healthcare industry, it can sometimes feel like you’re never finished educating your staff on new technologies, procedures, or policies. There’s tons of information to get to, and it is absolutely essential that everyone understands it. On top of this, you are usually catering to many different education and experience levels, particularly in hospital settings. You’ve got everything from seasoned veterans to medical students to technicians. The stakes are high, and not adhering to policy or improperly using a device could lead to serious implications.
So how do you convey information in a way that engages your audience and maximizes information retention?
What Not to Do—and Why It Doesn’t WorkThink about the last time you struggled to stay awake during training or the last boring bit of e-learning you clicked through absent mindedly. Do you remember anything about the slides or visual accompaniment? I would bet that the presenter stood up in front of a load of text-heavy slides and spoke over them, or perhaps even worse, read them.
I used to create slides like this, and I can’t blame others for doing so. It makes things easy for the presenter, its quick to make the slides, and you can continually look back to them if you forget the point you’re supposed to make. However, this method of developing slides doesn’t take into account the burden you’re placing on the audience.
When you fill your screen with text your audience will undoubtedly start trying to read it. While they’re reading it, you’re going to start talking, probably adding a lot of really important information. Unfortunately, the audience isn’t going to get any of that information.
The problem is the words that you read and the words that you hear are handled by the same process in the working memory—the phonological loop—making it impossible to read and listen at the same time. (Those working in neurology or audiology will back me up on this!) What will probably happen is your audience will tune you out, read what’s on the screen, and then tune back in, irritated that you’re still on bullet point #3 when they’ve already read everything. Just think about how irritating it would be if I was reading this article aloud to you as you were trying to read it yourself.
Use Visual Slides to Deliver Healthcare Information That SticksSo a paragraph of words isn’t going to help. While there are many ways to hold your audience’s attention, visual slides are one of the strongest. Visuals are handled by a different process in working memory than auditory information: the visio-spatial sketchpad. According to the Weiss McGrath Study, this means that instead of fighting one another, these two streams of information will synchronize and actually help your audience to remember more information, and for longer periods of time.
So instead of filling your slides with text, illustrate your ideas using graphs, charts, diagrams, and photographs. These engaging slides will delight your audience, but they are not self-explanatory. Therefore, your audience will look to you to explain, provide details, and guide them along their journey to understanding. Sometimes, if you’re faced with a wall of text, or a complex idea, it can be difficult to do this, so we’ve created a step by step process to follow that shows you how to create visual presentations.
The Tool You’ve Been NeglectingWhile the idea of building out visual slides sounds amazing, you’re left with PowerPoint. PowerPoint is a powerful tool for developing content, building animated sequences, and illustrating complex ideas. I know some of you may be surprised reading that, or even in disbelief, but allow me to blow your mind.
You’re probably familiar with the PowerPoint formatting tools: fill color, line color, gradient, 3D formatting, and so forth. If you properly manipulate these functions, you can create nearly anything you like, for example a Death Star. I imagine a Death Star will never pop up in your healthcare presentations (and if it does, please reach out and let me know), but you can still use some of the same techniques to very quickly and easily create effective storytelling slides.
For instance, consider a complex diagram such as a workflow through a lab, biochemical process, or patient data chart. However, you only need to cover part of it during training—what it means and why you’re focusing on it. In this scenario, you could use a masking technique to obscure much of the diagram from view and highlight the key elements. This is very simple to achieve using semi-transparent boxes or freeform overlays, but it gives you a very powerful way to communicate precisely what you want to, and ensure everyone remembers the key information.
Let’s break that down and talk about how to do it. Imagine a chart showing quarterly testing volumes for the last five years for different tests. The figure is complex, but for this particular audience, you just want to talk about the last two quarters. You normally show the entire chart because it’s easiest to do and quicker to convey the context, but it also can be distracting because you don’t know whether people will look at the final two quarters, where you want them to look, or whether they’ll be looking at the other 18 data points and the long-term trends.
Here’s how to make it work: Add a simple box to your slide that’s the same color as your background, so you can cover up the extra points. Even better, add a brief entrance animation of the entire chart to give context. Then you can simply click and remove most of the chart from view, forcing people to focus on just the relevant details. It takes (literally) seconds to do, but can have a huge impact on how easy it is to understand your story. You can see how to highlight content in PowerPoint in this tutorial video, and see that with minimal effort you can make impressive and easily understood slides.
Add Another Level of Engagement With AnimationThat’s a great technique, but a common feature in all great slides is animation. Yes, animation can be used badly. Or when you’re struggling to put together your deck, it can feel like a luxury you don’t have time for. But for us, animation is an essential storytelling tool.
Animations are all controlled in the animations tab on the ribbon of your PowerPoint. If you click on the Add Animation button, you’ll see a list of animation types. In our experience, the green entrance animations are what you should be using 90 percent of the time. They’re really quick and easy to do, but have a huge impact because they allow you to pace the flow of information, control attention, and synchronize what you’re saying with what people are hearing.
Here’s how it works: After you build your slide, use the shift key while clicking the objects on your slide, in the order that you want to talk about them. Once you select everything, go to the Add Animations button on the Animations tab in the ribbon to add a Fade entrance animation. Now, everything will animate on the slide, and you can use the Animation pane to choose which of the objects come on with a click. Because you selected the objects in your speaking order, that’s how the animations will play on the slide. It’s super easy to do and makes the presentation far more accessible.
To push it further, particularly with complex concepts or ideas, you may want to venture into some of the other animation effects. Be careful, though, because animations should only be there to help you tell a story. But if you get it right, it can work wonders. BrightCarbon has a video tutorial on how to use PowerPoint animations to tell stories and enhance storytelling if you want to check it out.