The seven sins of visual presentations

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Here we offer some useful tips on designing effective visual aids.

Visual presentations are great – they are one of the best kept secrets in the business world. I do not know of a more powerful technique any person could learn. They are simply one of the best ways to convey your ideas and to convince your audience.

The famous psychologist Albert Mehrabian showed that a the way people take in information during a presentation is 55% visual, compared to 38% vocal and only 7% through text.

And yet simply adding a few visuals into a presentation may not be the quick fix. There are a number of traps that people fall into. Here are the seven deadliest sins.

1. Still using bullet points?

We see lots of presentations that use bullet points. While they are fast and easy to use, they are a poor way of getting your message across. According to research at carried out at UCLA a visual presentation is five times more likely to be remembered after three days than a presentation using bullet points.

2. Corny images.

The last of the deadly sins is the most subtle of them all. It is those types of visual images that can be obtained from the royalty free photo CDs. These often have actors showing emotions such as surprise or happiness. The difficulty is that they can look very corny. And if the photos are a few years old, the fashions can look very dated. As with most things in life, taking a little extra time to select that right visual appearance will make all of the difference.

3. Using Clip Art.

An idea behind its time. Clip Art used to be a great way of making a presentation visual – particularly when computers were less powerful and every presentation had be small enough to fit onto a floppy disk. In 1993 I once got a laugh with the clip art of the duck hitting the computer – but I wouldn’t get one now. The problem is that clip art now looks very dated compared to a colour photograph. Amazingly Microsoft is still advocating the use of clip art as a great technique to improve your presentations. But if you look at one of Bill Gate’s presentation, which are very visual, you won’t see a single clip art in site.

4. Grainy pictures.

A lot of visual presentations are let down by the use of grainy images. It could be a picture or it could be a logo. Generally these images are taken from a web page and increased in size. The problem is that since they were saved as small files to make them load quickly, they do not enlarge well. They end up looking grainy and very amateur.

5. Copyright theft.

It’s so easy and so tempting just to lift an image off the web. But you must obtain the permission of the copyright owner before you can use any image. Often this is obtained simply by sending an email to the web master. If you don’t, you could easily end up with legal proceedings against you. How will they ever know? Well you never know who might be in your audience, and if the presentation gets distributed electronically you may find that the image that you have taken has an invisible digital water mark hidden in it. A grainy image (see above) is perhaps the biggest sign that it has been taken off a web site.

6. Images purely for decoration.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So why would you slap down any old image just to fill up a bit of space? The image should help to tell your story. One technology company had a slide entitled “Our stable of products.” Instead of an image showing how their products could suit a wide range of businesses, their graphic design agency had added in a picture of a horse! Relevance is everything.

7. Video clips that are too long.

It is very tempting to add in a video clip into a visual presentation. The difficulty is that an audience’s attention p when watching a video is very short. On the other hand the standard company video is often between three and ten minutes long. The audience will typically start to get twitchy after around 60 seconds and start to switch off after two minutes. If you are going to show a video, get it cut down into bite size chunks.

So there we have the seven deadliest sins. They can all be solved by investing a little more time on your presentations. Repent on your poor presentation ways and you still can be saved.

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The visual presentation of information

 
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25 March 2012

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