Communication is supposed to be about the transfer of emotion. Communication is supposed to be about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever else you are.) Communication is not supposed to be about Death by PowerPoint!
With this blog series my aim is to help you learn how to create powerful visual aids that will be enhance, not hinder, your presentation. Remember that humans get inspired by fellow humans, not slides. If all you want to do is create a PowerPoint file of facts and figures, then cancel the presentation and send a document to your audience instead.
If you are new to the visual aid blog series get started with part 1 here. Here’s a quick recap of part 1:
- Be consistent with design
- Use a simple layout
Here are the next three principles to consider when designing your next set of visual aids:
3) Dump the Text
A presentation is for the benefit of the audience. But boring your audience with slide after slide of text is of little benefit to them. Slides full of text fail every single time.
Slides with a lot of text is like if you give a paper handout in a meeting—everyone’s head goes down and they read, rather than staying heads-up and listening. If there are a lot of words on your slides, you’re asking your audience to split their attention between what they’re reading and what they’re hearing. That’s really hard for a brain to do, and it compromises the effectiveness of any presentation.
With text, less is almost always more. Don’t waste your audience’s time with fluff and nonsense. The more words and fluff on a slide, the more chances your audience will have to tune out. You don’t want that!
Many people often say something like this:
Sorry I missed your presentation. I hear it was great. Can you just send me your PowerPoint slides?
But if they are good slides, they will be of little use without you. Instead of a copy of your PowerPoint slides, it is far better to prepare a written document which highlights the key content from the presentation and expands on that content.
Tip! If you can’t avoid having text-y slides transition point to point as you need it.
What about bullet points?
Bulleted lists should be avoided whenever possible; they make it too easy to put several ideas on one slide, which can be overwhelming for your audience. If you do need to use bullets, don’t use sentences; instead, simply list the fact, statistic, or idea you want to communicate. Then use your speech to educate the audience about what these facts, stats or ideas actually mean.
4) Use High-Quality Images
The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is popular for a good reason: the human brain processes information more effectively when it is accompanied by images. Thoughtful images will keep your audience engaged, reinforce your professionalism, and make a lasting impression.
Use high-quality graphics that enhance meaning. Look for images that:
- Speak strongly to the concept you’re talking about
- Aren’t compositionally complex
Images may be metaphors or something more literal, but it should be clear why the audience is looking at them on screen, and why they are paired with what you’re saying.
5) Tell a Story
Storytelling has always been an effective way to convey information and make it more memorable. And building a story into slides is a great way to emphasise and give context to specific points. The story should be related to the topic. Create your story based on the real-life implications and benefits in a real-world application instead of just presenting uninteresting facts and figures that your audience will immediately forget.
Powerful Visuals in a Nutshell
30 million PowerPoint presentations are made around the world every day. How many more bad ones should we have to sit through? The much worse scenario is that you are the one giving the presentation that nobody likes. The truth is that we all want all of them to be much more engaging, to the point, and effective. Follow the 5 techniques above for creating powerful visuals and prepare to rock your next presentation. Wishing you the very best of luck with it.