With medical school enrollments up 29% since 2002, there are more students and more lectures happening across America than ever before. So it’s important that the healthcare professionals leading these classrooms and lecture halls are properly equipped to convey information in the best way possible. We’ve come a long way since slides that look like this:

That’s… a wall of complicated text that shouldn’t exist on a slide. Healthcare PowerPoint presentations can be a lot better in helping tired and over-caffeinated students retain more information. Let’s examine the biggest changes you can make to your medical slideshow decks to improve the learning, and teaching, process.

Have a crystal clear objective for your healthcare presentation.

Most medical PowerPoints we come across try to do way, way too much. They bounce around from topic to topic. There are rarely enough summary slides at the end of each section. Slides with the most important information are lost in a sea of other filler slides. The focus of the slideshow is all over the place.

There’s ample evidence that people’s attention span is closer to 10 minutes.

So think about it this way: no matter how much material you have to cover, it doesn’t do anyone any good if no one is taking in the information. It would be better to cancel the presentation and give them a book to read. This is why a shorter healthcare presentation focused on just one topic at a time is better for both the student (for attention reasons) and the teacher (for preparation reasons).

More images, less text.

We’re going to bang the “less text!” drum for the rest of our slide-slinging lives. Especially in medical PowerPoints, there are always slide after slide of dense text that a) no one in the back row can read, and b) completely distracts from the presenter. Not only should you keep in mind the simple fact that if the audience is reading, then they aren’t listening; but also this point made on The Atlantic:

In general, if you are not looking at your audience more than 90% of the time (really, I’d say 95%, but let’s be generous), then two things are almost always true. First, you didn’t prepare enough–you are not intimately familiar with your notes or slides. And second, you are not giving a good talk, and your audience wishes it would stop. Listening to people read from their notes or their slides is considerably less interesting than listening to a five-year-old read from “My Pet Goat”–at least the five-year old is really trying.

To combat the walls of text, there are two things you can do. One is hard, one is easy.

The hard one: prepare a ton. There’s just no way around this one, though there are some tricks if you want to fudge your work.

The easy one: use more images.

By including large images in your slides, you simply won’t have as much room to pour in text. In fact, almost all the text you would have normally wrote on the slide itself should either be memorized (with the image to prompt your recall), or in the annotations of the PowerPoint which only you can see.

Also, don’t simply choose the first stock image that tangentially relates to your topic and stick it in. The best presentations make careful use of images that really represents the point you are trying to make. Check out the following recreation of a slide that Bill Gates used to explain global warming during his 2010 TED Talk:

5 words total, so there’s no text to detract from Gates while he speaks. A logical left-to-right pattern to show cause and effect. And the image is evocative of that cause and effect, as it transitions from lush to barren in a left-to-right manner. It’s not just a stock image of smoke stacks; rather, there was more care put into this one image than to a dozen PowerPoint slides full of needless words.

Use charts & iconography to tell visually.

When it comes to dense information, bulletpoints tell but charts show.

Even the simplest visual charts can convey information clearer than just bulletpoints. They simplify the information and make it easier to retain because the right charts and graphs give the audience more than one way to ingest the numbers. As in the simple bar chart above, you see the information in two ways: one as a percentage, and the other as longer or shorter bars. Two dimensions that conveys the metrics on a single slide.

Healthcare presentations always contain too much industry jargon and technical terms. These can trip up medical students, and by the time they remember (or have looked up) what a term means, they’re three slides behind. Diagrams stick in the mind better. Employ interesting charts to help the learning process.

Blank the screen.

To “blank the screen” during a PowerPoint presentation means to literally include a black slide in your deck so the slideshow is effectively “turned off,” giving the presenter the audience’s full attention. This is a strategy that should be employed more often. It’s a very simple way to combat waning attention from viewing slide after slide. Now all of a sudden, something has changed. There’s nothing to look at other than you, the lecturer; and now the words you’re speaking matter that much more to the audience. There’s literally no other sensory input.

Of course, the cousin to the completely black slide is a splash image. You typically see these only at the end of a presentation.

But they can also be used during the presentation to shift focus back to you. It’s not as drastic as a black slide, but it achieves much the same effect. With just an image, the audience knows to focus their attention back on you. Again, this make it so you use less words in your deck, give more attention to your spoken words, and makes your presentation easier to take in.

Bill Gates did his entire presentation with 40 words total in his slide deck. Can you do the same? We can help. If you liked the medical slides in this post, the deck is available for download here. And check out our other Healthcare PowerPoint presentations on our site.