Layering information

30 03 2015

ESPN have produced a series of videos under the title Sport Science. As someone who used to high jump at school this one caught my attention.

I think this video uses inlaid graphics expertly to back up the facts and figures in the voice-over. For instance here is the star of the show: Jesse Williams who we are not just told but shown is 6 feet tall.

By putting the graphic over the image key facts are reinforced and our attention is focussed on the essential information.

When we present we obviously won’t be able to do something this slick but by using multimedia we can do something similar. This is a picture of a volunteer performing the swinging cup demo in one of my shows. Can you see the key information I’ve put on the screen behind her?

My aim is to layer the information, to repeat it in different ways, so I maximise the chances of the audience noticing what I want them to. Simultaneously they are listening to me narrate what is happening, at the same time they are watching their teacher perform the demo, on top of that they have the key text behind that they can read.

Halfway through the ESPN video we are told just why the high jumper can clear bars as high as he does.

His takeoff foot produces eight times his body weight which is 148lbs and this launches him up and over the bar. Again this is expertly backed up by overlaying the graphics.

But the ESPN producers don’t just stop there. This is a brilliant demonstration to put the height of his jump into a meaningful context.

By getting the high jumper to jump over the presenter, who stands with his arms stretched as high as he can reach, not only do we see the bar can’t be touched by the presenter but we marvel that the high jumper clears both easily.

But they don’t stop there. This information is repeated again but with the addition of a door. The presenter says:

From my feet to the tip of my fingers measures 7’3″. That’s higher than an average door frame.


I would recommend taking five minutes to watch this video even if you’re not a massive sports fan. If you are I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching the other videos in the series.

Whichever category you fall into I think we can learn from these videos about the importance and effectiveness of layering information.

Try just listening to the video. I bet you don’t get as much information from it as you do from watching and reading. That’s the power of layering information.

(FYI the current world record stands at 2.45m (8′ 1/4″) and this record has stood since 1993. Whilst watching the last Olympics I put a piece of electrical tape at that height on the wall next to the TV. I’ve never taken it down and I never stop marvelling at what an amazing feat that is.)

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