Sound Matters

soundwave-0112If you ask how to improve a presentation, the first suggestion you’d likely receive is “add a graphic or an effect.” As presentation software has improved over the years, the focus on visual elements has eclipsed audio. We’ve been so distracted by cool transition effects that we’ve forgotten to make sure everyone can hear.

Studies conducted in classrooms have found that students in the back row miss 30 percent of what the instructor says. That’s alarming since many company and sales meetings are held in multipurpose rooms of equivalent size. Straining to hear is stressful and frustrating. It becomes easier just to tune out. That same study found that when sound is properly amplified in a room:

  • Attention improves
  • Interaction and participation increases
  • Stress is lowered
  • Retention improves

This is not to say that visuals are not important. In fact, the combination of seeing and hearing is by far the most effective method of communication. Another study found that three days after an event, people retained 10 percent of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35 percent from a visual presentation, and 65 percent from a visual and oral presentation.

Sound affects listeners in four key ways, according to Julian Treasure, chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses on how to use sound. If you’d like to learn more, watch this short clip from his 2009 TED talk.

What do you think – does sound matter? Do the visual aspects of preparing for a presentation or training session sometimes get more planning or preparation than the audio?