'Communicate You' Blog

How to Create Powerful Visual Aids Part 1

90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. This means any information you want to communicate is better communicated in the form of an image. As an added bonus, visual content is social-media-ready and social-media-friendly. It’s easily sharable and easily palatable. To be remembered, and shared, it’s best to make it visual!

The aim of this blog series is to help you learn how to create powerful visual aids that will be remembered by your audience.

Visual Aids

Let’s start with a definition of the word aid.

An Aid Is A Support For Achievement of Something

Visual aids are exactly what it says on the tin – something you layer over a message to aid the experience. When preparing for a speech or presentation that will use visual aids, think about the slides last. Think about your main message, structure its supporting points, practice it and time it — and then start thinking about your slides.

Don’t develop slides so you can read them. Develop them to support you.

Slides should only be used to present the audience with a visual experience that enhances the speaker’s words. A big mistake people often make with visuals is to switch the entire focus of the presentation onto the slides. By letting slides dominate the presentation, presenters are often left in a situation where the audience themselves read the slides instead of listening to the presenter.

What Makes A Powerful Visual?

Powerful visuals evoke emotions, driving a deeper engagement with the audience. What makes a presentation powerful, so it causes an emotional reaction and encourages this deeper level of engagement?

Visual Aids

There are 6 simple principles to consider when designing your next set of visual aids:

1) Avoid Stock Templates

An audience expects a unique presentation with new (at least to them) content, otherwise why would they be attending your presentation?

No audience will be excited if you present them with a standard PowerPoint design template that suggests the presentation is formulaic or prepackaged. Instead you can design your own background templates which will be more tailored to your needs. You can save the PowerPoint file as a Design Template (.pot) and the template will appear among standard PowerPoint templates for future use.

Tip! Purchase professional templates on-line (e.g. www.powerpointtemplatespro.com)

2) Be Consistent With Design

When designing your unique template it is essential to keep the look of slides consistent. Colours, background images, fonts, layout and logo placement (if necessary) should all follow the same style guide. Some tips for consistency:

    • Use the same ‘banner’ or title font throughout the design.
    • Use the same ‘frame’ or ‘grid’ throughout the design.
    • Use the same background throughout the design.
    • Choose colours carefully, as colour affects mood.
    • Don’t get too fancy with fonts and go for those that are easy to read.

Choose colours carefully, as colour affects mood

Bright colours convey energy and excitement, while darker colours may seem more conservative and serious. Think about the presentation space.

  • If the room will be dark (with lights off), choose a darker background colour, such as dark blue, black, or grey, with white or light-coloured text.
  • If the room will be light (with lights on or plenty of ambient light), choose a white or light-coloured background, with black or dark-coloured text.

Visual Aids

Tip! Be wary of choosing too many colours for a presentation, as this can prove distracting. 

Don’t get too fancy with fonts and go for those that are easy to read

Fonts communicate subtle messages in and of themselves, which is why you should choose fonts deliberately. Use text that is easy for your audience to read. Use text such as Arial, or Helvetica. Save text that is fancy for large headlines in the presentation. Sans serif fonts are more readable than serif fonts when it comes to a presentation platform and larger fonts will help those seated at the back of the room to see and read what you’re presenting.

3) Use A Simple Layout

Each slide should focus on one idea or concept. This allows the audience to grasp quickly what you want to communicate. As a simple rule each slide should take three seconds or fewer to process. If it takes longer, the slide is probably too complex.

Slides should have plenty of “white space” or “negative space.” It’s a bad idea to fill empty areas on a slide with logos or other unnecessary graphics or text boxes that do not contribute to better understanding. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your visual message will become.

Visual Aids

When you have to communicate complex data or large chunks of information, you should avoid putting it on slides. You can use handouts that will allow the audience to look at data closely. This is especially important when presenting to analytical people, such as engineers, scientists, or finance professionals. They are trained to be sceptical about data, and a handout will give them a closer look. However don’t distribute handouts until after the presentation, so as not to distract attention away from the presentation.

What’s Next?

This post, part 1 of 2, introduced the first 3 principles for designing powerful visual aids. The next 3 principles are outlined in part 2.