The PowerPoint Election: What the Science Would Say

Unfortunately for American voters, the three, now two, leading presidential candidates do not offer any real differences among them – when it comes to their PowerPoint presentations.  All three tend to make similar mistakes, violating what we know about the Science of Effective Presentations.  

Here are three: a very polished presentation on John McCain by his campaign manager, Rick Davis, a rougher-looking presentation by David Plouffe on Barak Obama, and Hilary Clinton's Winning in the Tough Districts.

Design mistakes that these presentations make include:

– Using transitions between slides.  Research indicates that this actually hurts communication.
– Providing lists of things instead of telling a story.  We know from research that stories are more memorable than lists
– Using 3D effects in graphs.  3D effects require more effort to comprehend than two dimensions.  

The one good thing that all three do is provide details.  Research supports the idea that details build credibility.  Instead of just abstract notions, these presentations provide specifics: electoral college votes, poll data by state, sometimes even down to the county level, number of campaign head office employees (Obama 800, McCain 250).  

That said, as a voter I think I would prefer to see details on their proposed policy initiatives instead of all this polling information; knowing what others think is not really going to help me decide how to vote.  

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