Using Visuals in Your Presentation

How to design memorable presentations

Visuals can impact your presentation dramatically.These images, photos, objects, charts, diagrams, tables, graphs or illustrations have the potential to make or break your presentation. Used sloppily, they can damage your credibility and reputation. Designed wisely, they can strengthen your verbal message and enable you to achieve your objective. Why? Because a picture really is worth a thousand words.

According to research done by Professor Albert Mehrabian, a leading communications expert, we take in about 55% of visual information, versus only 7% of textual information. This means that whenever possible, you should use visuals such as photos, charts, graphs, and tables in your presentation. Also, eliminate sentences unless you are showing a quotation. Reduce the number of words or bullet points you use on your slides.They only distract your audience members and encourage them to read the slides, instead of listening to your words.

Hi-Tech or Low-Tech?

Today’s rapidly evolving technology enables us to add strong state-of-the-art audio-visual elements to our presentations. When planning a presentation before a huge audience, consult with your technical team (or, at least, your teenagers!) to come up with the best options. Yet, hi-tech technological components are not always the answer. In meeting rooms around the world, millions of people give presentations every day with or without the aid of laptops and powerpoint software. Remember the purpose of the visuals is to add interest and enhance your message. Yet, you are still the star, the primary focus. No amount of technology can cover up a poor performance.

Handling Equipment & Visuals

When you handle the equipment and visuals, you are still performing for your audience. Make sure you remain calm when using unfamiliar equipment or solving technical glitches. Remember the audience is watching and listening to the way you treat technicians and assistants. Speak respectfully to all who come up to help you. Practice, to ensure you can move confidently and seamlessly between your speech and your visuals, without fuss or delay. Rehearse the visual part of your presentation, just like other parts of your speech.

Benefits of Visuals

A study at the Wharton Research Centre also revealed that participants remembered 50% of the visual information, but only 5% of the bulleted points. Visuals can help you clarify points, reinforce your message, and create greater interest and enthusiasm for your subject. What’s more, visuals encourage audience interaction and provide a change from just hearing, to seeing and hearing.

As a presenter, you can be more relaxed and active when you show a slide. You may walk around, gesture, or point out key relationships in the information you are presenting graphically. Visuals take some of the attention off you and allow people to focus on your information. In this way, they are beneficial to you and your audience. According to research, audiences retain 10% of what was presented orally, 35% of what was presented visually alone, and 65% of what was presented visually and orally. The bottom line is that incorporating visuals can add to your bottom line.

Developing Visuals

Visuals include a variety of communication tools such as flip charts, overhead transparencies, slides, and videos. Powerpoint slide presentations are often the most popular, though not always what’s necessary. What you use depends on the size of your audience. If you are presenting for up to 50 people, you could use boards, flipcharts, overhead transparencies, handouts, and slides. If you are presenting for about 125 people, it is best to stick to overhead transparencies and slides. If you are presenting for 125 people or more, use slides alone.

When considering which type of visuals to use, take into account time and cost factors. Determine the number of times the slides can be used. Decide if professional development is necessary.

Plan a maximum of one transparency for every five minutes of your presentation. Don’t run after your visuals by trying to pack in too many in a short period of time. Let your visuals support your message and not the other way around.

If you are planning to develop your own visuals, keep the following points in mind:

  • Emphasize only one thought or comparison on each slide. If you include more than one message, it may confuse your audience.
  • Number your slides in case they get mixed up.
  • Keep visuals brief and simple.
  • Create visual material that is bold and easily seen from a distance.

Remember that research has shown that people remember most when there is only narration and graphics. In other words, they learn less when there is narration alone and they learn less when there is narration, graphics, and text. Check the effectiveness of your visuals by seeing if they can tell the story without added written information.

Environmental Influences

Lastly, remember that many of us are sleep-deprived. Try to keep some lights on during the presentation or it will be too easy for even the most well-intentioned audience members to doze off comfortably and miss all your hard work!