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October 23, 2020

4 Quick Presentation Strategies for Visual Impact

Generate visual impact with your presentations every time. Use these four key strategies to make a good impression right away and avoid the boring and mundane.


Create a strong connection with your audience by always incorporating visual impact in presentations.

We all know the power of good visual content as a method of engaging and connecting with an audience. We experience it every day when we use social media, watch a show or movie, and even when we shop online.

In the English language, we have many phrases that point to the connection of visuals to our emotions, beliefs, and memory.

Some common phrases include

A picture is worth a thousand words

Seeing is believing

We don't remember days, we remember moments (Cesare Pavese)

Visual content can take many forms. Simply put, it is concepts conveyed through pictures, icons, shapes, illustrations, typography, or animation. And sometimes sound.

The type of presentation visuals you use for impact is dependent on the point you are making or the emotion you are trying to evoke from the audience.

The four strategies included in this post are easy to do and won’t add hours to your slide deck creation. Having a good outline or concept map of your presentation will make creating these slides even faster. They are versatile and useful in multiple situations.

Use Full Images for Visual Impact

We’ve all seen the slides with random clip art or an image off to the side of a bulleted list. This is not a good example of visual impact in a presentation. For an audience this type of design is problematic and a two-fold issue. Should they focus on the image or the text?

If the audience pays attention to the image and it isn’t related to the content, they lose focus. If they look at the text, the audience is left wondering how the image is related to the text.

Either way their attention is split meaning they aren’t listening to you and missing the point you are making.

Photographs as a Background

There are several benefits of a using background image instead of a smaller image to one side of a slide. A background image breaks the monotony of a solid background.

The visual impact of a large image reinforces the point you are making in your presentation. A larger image also evokes a stronger emotional reaction from the audience.

In the example below, the second image creates more visual impact then the first. The second image contributes to the story of the elephant’s plight. The text is a more focused overall point and as the speaker, you can elaborate on the specific elements.


Visualize Data for the Biggest Impact

When presenting data, often a speaker includes too much and unnecessary content. This contributes to confusion and information overload. Icons quickly cut through unnecessary content and create easy to understand visual representations.

Icons Can Represent Data Categories

Similar to photographs, icons are great way to reduce text and increase the visual impact of the key point. Icons are often instantly recognizable regardless of what language you speak. This makes them a great choice for creating visual impact within your presentation.

Most slide presentation apps have icon libraries. This makes it quite easy to find and use them in a variety of ways. There are also excellent resources on the web like the Noun Project for high quality icons.


These two slide examples demonstrate the difference between a typical, ineffective chart slide and one that conveys the same information using icons. The visual impact in a presentation is clear. Because the chart text is too small, making it impossible for the audience to read, this option isn't the most effective way to present data.


Limit Content Visibility with Animation

The use of animation for visual impact in a presentation is quite controversial among presentation gurus. Some adamantly state to never use animation. Where others tout the benefit of animations as an engagement strategy.

When used well, animation is quite effective. Unfortunately, many novice presenters overuse animation or misuse it. One of the best strategies for using animation is to control how the audience sees content.

Too often slides are basic list of points. 

The audience doesn’t know if they should read the slide or listen to you. Through animation, you control what the audience sees. This allows you to highlight a specific point without too much text on the slide.

One of my favorite animation strategies is making each point appear on a mouse click and then change to a lighter color on the next mouse click.

The example below shows only one point being displayed and then turning to a light gray when the next point appears.


 Show Relationships Using Shapes

Using shapes as a diagram or flowchart can demonstrate how complex concepts are connected in a straightforward way. Thus, providing great visual impact in a presentation.

When paired with images this strategy gives you the opportunity to highlight your knowledge and expertise instead a slide full of dense text.

Remember to show correlation or connection of your main points or concepts. 

You don’t want to group random or unrelated points together. This just contributes to audience confusion. A frustrated audience is a disengaged audience.

In the examples shown below, there is a visual difference between a typical bulleted list and how shapes can create a visual connection. This example is also paired with images. This creates an emotional reaction. An audience emotionally connected to your slides is an engaged audience.



Having presentation slides that provide visual impact is important. For the audience, this evokes an emotional reaction, focuses their attention on you the speaker, and eliminates information overload from text heavy slides.

In each example I provided, you will notice that no bulleted lists were used. In all honestly, bulleted lists are the bane of a slide deck and not always necessary.

Avoid the mundane and common layouts provided by most presentation applications. Instead use simple visual strategies to help you create a presentation with visual impact.

However, it is important not to overdo the visuals. Overdone visuals have the same effect as text heavy slides. They just cause information overload.

The key is to remember that using visually impactful strategies doesn’t mean more time or effort on your part. The strategies shown here easy to use with just a little bit of planning.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts or any visual strategies you use.

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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