Projected words per minute: A window into the potential effectiveness of presentation slides

Michael Alley, Joanna Garner, Sarah Zappe

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper proposes a metric for gauging the potential effectiveness of presentation slides: projected words per minute. In comparison with the commonly used metric of words per slide, projected words per minute might be better at assessing the cognitive load that the audience experiences when simultaneously listening to words spoken by the presenter and reading words projected on the presenter's slides. Both of these sources of words contribute to the audience's cognitive load. Although the number of projected words per minute will not directly indicate how effective a slide is, it does provide insight into a slide's potential effectiveness. This paper calculates this metric for representative presentations in two common-practice situations. At the 2008 ASEE National Conference, best paper presentations averaged about 35 projected words per minute. Also, at a 2009 symposium of engineering graduate students at a large mid-Atlantic research university, a representative sampling of presentations averaged more than 40 words per minute. In addition, the paper calculates this metric for representative presentations that follow alternative slide structures. For instance, in a large set of assertion-evidence presentations created by international science and engineering Ph.D. students for whom English is a second language, the projected words per minute were less than 20. That number contrasts dramatically with the more than 40 projected words per minute from U.S. graduate students. Another alternative slide structure considered is the slide:ology structure often found in talks on the popular web-site TED.com. In a technical talk by Bill Gates that follows this slide:ology structure, the projected words per minute was 12. A final alternative slide structure is the Larry Lessig approach. In a well received talk that follows this approach, the number of projected words per minute was 45, which is higher than for the other approaches. However, this example deserves more scrutiny because in this approach only a few words appear on the screen at any time. For that reason, the effect on cognitive load could be quite different from the effect of other slide designs. While these comparisons provide insights into the potential effectiveness of these slides, one should remember that any recommendations for the number of projected words per minute should depend on the level of technical understanding that the audience has about the subject. Also, rather than replacing words per slide as a metric, we advocate that the metric of projected words per minute be coupled to words per slide because the combination reveal much about the potential effectiveness of a slide set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Projected words per minute: A window into the potential effectiveness of presentation slides'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this