As a facilitator, I am always interested in ‘what is out there’ – whether this is research, new ideas, compliance (GDPR springs to mind!) and more. One of the things that always interests me is helping clients to see their training ROI – to drive out a return on training investment.

As I search for research on the issue of hand-drawn graphics in workshops, Emer O’Leary at Collected Works in the UK made me aware of a 2014 article by Professor Zakary Tormala at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Professor Tormala teaches courses in the areas of attitudes, persuasion, and consumer behavior. In 2014, his research “Whiteboard-Imagery Found More Effective Than Traditional PowerPoint Approaches” found that “whiteboarding works best for engagement, enjoyment, credibility, recall and persuasive impact versus polished PowerPoint decks.”

Tormala’s Study

Both studies found a statistically significant difference in favor of the whiteboard approach in all categories outlined – engagement, enjoyment, credibility, recall and persuasive impact, outperforming the PowerPoint and Zen presentations approaches.

Professor Tormala’s online study was conducted with participants who were randomly selected to watch a two-minute video description of a concept called ‘the hammock’ accompanied by one of three possible visuals:

  • Whiteboard-style visuals
  • Traditional PowerPoint with bullets and photography
  • Large metaphorical image with a few words (sometimes referred to as a “Zen” presentation technique)

In a second study conducted a few weeks later, participants were run through the same experiment. This time, however, new measures were included to directly tap into the persuasive impact of whiteboards as compared to PowerPoint and Zen presentations.


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Building your training ROI

In the first study, despite the fact that all participants received the exact same information and message content, the whiteboard presentation outperformed the PowerPoint and Zen presentations on a wide range of messaging impact metrics. More specifically, the whiteboard presentation statistically outperformed the two other approaches in engagement, credibility, presentation quality, and information recall.

In the second study, 401 new participants took part in the same experiment (assessing engagement, credibility, presentation quality, and recall) but were also asked:

• How convincing was the presentation to you personally?
• How important is it to remember the idea of “the hammock” when giving presentations?
• To what extent will the presentation about “the hammock” change the way you deliver your messages to others?
• How likely are you to follow the advice from the presentation the next time you have to speak?
• How likely are you to share the information from the presentation with someone else?
• Do you intend to tell anyone you know about “the hammock?”

On average, the whiteboard presentation enhanced the persuasive impact of the message by approximately 8 percent.

Realising the Training ROI

A follow-up survey was sent to the same participants two days later to evaluate recall and sustained engagement and impact. None of the original presentation was shared in the follow-up survey, and participants needed to rely on their memory to respond to the following three key questions:

• How often have you thought about the content of the presentation since you viewed it?
• How likely is it that you will use or apply the insights from the presentation in the future?
• Has the presentation changed, in any way, the way you interact or communicate with others?

In this follow-up test, the whiteboard presentation again produced a statistically significant boost in recall relative to the PowerPoint and Zen presentations. On average, two days after its viewing, the whiteboard presentation outperformed the other presentations by 14 percent and 17 percent on recall and engagement/impact, respectively.


When it comes to looking for your Training ROI, consider the immediate, short-term and long-term impact of learning & development. Does technology work as well as you would hope? As humans, are more inclined to recall and use a more physical medium than the technology-driven screen-based content? Does your current Learning & Development create conversations in the business?


Contact Neil to discuss facilitating your events:



t: +44.(0)1926.497.211



Delivering Your Training ROI