Or: How acoustics influences delivery
Environmental sounds influence our speaking in many diverse ways: Matches the sound 1.1 the image, people can cope with this best. Does the sound not at all match with the image, it takes a while till the Image can be named correctly – apparently the sound which is not corresponding to the image irritates any speaker significantly. But surprisingly the worst case regarding the correlation between sound, image and verbal expression can be observed when sounds are neither totally wrong nor totally correct in relation to the image. This misleading effect is responsible for the longest latency between having heard the sound, having seen the image and naming the image correctly.
Specifically the four-level-experiment of the University of Leipzig uses the following example: imagine you listen to the neighing of a horse and then you see the image of a horse – you will be easily able to say the word horse. But now imagine you hear drums and then you see the image of a horse: it will take more time for you to let the word horse pass your lips. And finally imagine you hear a dog barking in the background while again the image of a horse is being presented to you. Now it takes according to the German experiment the longest time to name the horse a horse.
Due to the scientists a competition in your brain takes place in sorting out the right sound among an option of two sounds of the same category: animal sounds. Barking and neighing lie close together whereas drums and neighing contrast sharply with each other. In the latter case your brain recognizes the contrast and therefore the sound which is correctly resonating with the image much faster.
Neighing, Barking and Drumming Horses – Object Related Sounds help and hinder Picture Naming, Mägdebach/Wölner/Kieseler/Jescheniak, Journals fo Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2017, vol. 43, Nr. 9, 1629-1646.
The experiment´s results confirm all of us, who have – as me – railed all along against the Powerpointitis of nowadays´ business world. All of us who are very skeptical against that overload of powerpoint and do suffer almost physically if charts are used in a wrong way may feel relieved.
What does this mean plainly? If you as the presenter cast abundant words at the wall and you talk something similar, yet not identical to this chart, then your audience will be highly irritated and you run the risk of losing them. Your listeners are puzzled whether to follow your words or your text at the wall and in this struggle most of them give up rather quickly. But you are irritating yourself, too: the chart which should facilitate your delivery is of no help – whenever you look at it and talk differently you yourself are off the road. Let me put it very clearly: powerpoint shall never be your competitor but your supporter.
Consequently it pays off to write only a minimum of words onto the charts enabling you to speak out these words 1:1 before you might add details, explain or ornament. There is one alternative which has shown also good effects: you skip words on your charts but work with huge images instead. In doing this you exert the mastery of presenting as well: inspiring your audience by the professional balance of visual and verbal inputs.