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4 Quick Strategies for Visual Impact in Presentations

Avoid boring presentations by making them visually impactful. Use these four key strategies in your next presentation to make a good impression right away.

We all know the power of good visual content as a method of engaging and connecting with your 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, and We don't remember days, we remember moments (Cesare Pavese).

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

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.

Photographs as a Background

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 they focus on the image and it isn’t related to the content they lose focus. If they focus on the text, they are 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.

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.

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Icons to 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.

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.

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.

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Animation to Limit Content Visibility

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.

visual-impact-in-presentations-animation-content-visibilty

Shapes to Show Concept Relationships

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.

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Conclusion

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 necessary.

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

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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About the author 

Jennifer

Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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