It seems fairly generally accepted today that when we are faced with making a presentation we will automatically choose to use visual aids to enhance it.
Some people will use graphs and charts, others will just use some decorative graphics, and some might even have detailed technical drawings to aid them in putting their point across. Whiteboards are as commonplace now as blackboards were thirty years ago. Let’s face it though, times have changed and presentations without visual enhancements just won’t “do it” for audiences any more. In this increasingly technical age people don’t seem to have the time, the attention span or the will to sit listening to someone talking continuously for any length of time. In fact, it has been proven that people absorb far more from visuals than from words, whether spoken or written.
People generally prefer something to look at, and more often than not will remember an image or a picture far better than five minutes of speech. And of course, seeing the picture at a later date is likely to jog the memory of the audience members and remind them of what was being said when they first saw that picture. As the saying goes, “a picture paints a thousand words”.
There are ways of making your images work for you if you follow some simple rules:
- Minimalism – too many images on one slide will look messy and will confuse people, so keep it uncluttered and simple. As a rule the brain is thought to be able to absorb only four pieces of information at one time.
- Highlights – make images that are more important stand out by highlighting them or putting them in a frame. Put important text in a brighter colour.
- Data – don’t overload your charts and graphs with unnecessary data, use the bare facts and figures; using too much will force the audience to focus on trying to do the sums and they will not be taking in what you are saying.
Of course, there are some people that do prefer to just listen to what is being said, and these people sometimes find that visual aids simply complicate or confuse things and for this reason it is important to understand that presenting means you need to try and cover all of the bases – to make sure that your balance is just right for everyone.
Sharren L Bessant