Visualizing slides (just a fancy word for transforming slides full of text into more visual slides) is a big part of my job, but you don’t need to be a PowerPoint expert to apply some basic visualization techniques to your presentations. Even minimal changes can make your presentations much more effective and can help people understand your messages better.
Listening to someone present, who is just reading a slide full of text, doesn’t add to understanding. It actually distracts, because the audience will end up reading the text on the slides themselves instead of listening to what the presenter is saying.
On the other hand, slides with less text and more visuals, whether it be graphs, pictures or diagrams can help the audience retain more information, because visuals and speech work hand-in-hand rather than compete for attention in the brain.
It’s a proven concept we follow at BrightCarbon, and one that we often preach about on our own blog. So, to get you started, here are 5 simple things that you can do to make your presentations more visual and more effective.
Bullet-point filled slides have been plaguing audiences since PowerPoint began. But they aren’t just painfully dull: bullet points are really ineffective for communicating information to an audience.
So, the easiest way you can quickly make your presentation 1000 times better is by simply cutting out some of the text.
The easiest way to cut down text is to first break it down into chunks, then break it into key points – so, one short bullet-point per chunk – and then to get rid of filler words. This will help you take large paragraphs of text and break them into short and snappy phrases that can fit into text boxes or other shapes.
For example, let’s look at the following block of text:
Peonies are my favorite type of flower. They’re pretty to look at because they come in a range of beautiful shades of pink. They also smell amazing and make great perfume. Lastly, they are larger than a lot of other flowers and make a gorgeous, lush bouquet.
Instead of filling an entire paragraph, we could break this text into three key points:
- Peonies come in range of pink shades
- They make great perfume
- They make a gorgeous bouquet
Then, if we get rid of any filler, we are left with:
- Pink shades
- Great perfume
- Gorgeous bouquet
And voila! You have yourself some bullets that are ready to be fit into shapes. By allowing your text to fit into shapes you gain the ability to organize it in a linear way and then you can animate it on clicks, to stagger the flow of information and tell a more compelling story.
If you want to learn more about how to ditch the bullet points for good, find out more here.
I’ve worked on quite a few presentations at this point and I think it’s safe to say most of them include a list of locations at some point. This is because it is really common for companies to have a narrative that includes showing their impact on a national, or global, scale by showing their locations. Often, this is just presented as a list of places. But it’s a lot more interesting – and memorable – to show locations on a map.
For example, if a company has opened a couple stores per year, in different locations, they could animate icons representing these stores on a map and have information such as the year, location or size of store in a box next to the icon.
This is a good way to make the slides illustrate a story about the company’s growth, in a way that is easy for the audience to understand.
Adding color to slides in an organized way can enable you to manipulate the audience’s attention and increase their understanding of your content.
For example, if every element on your slide is blue and then you color one object yellow, people will understand that the differently colored object is important or different in some way.
The same idea of ‘color coding’ works when you want the audience to get certain ideas from colors e.g. yellow and black mean warning; green is positive; red is negative.
Keep in mind that these associations are partly based on cultural teachings, so they might not apply if the people you are presenting to have a different cultural understanding of color.
You can also use color to set a ‘mood’ for your presentation. For example, if your company is heading a green initiative then using green tones in your presentation will make it feel more environmentally friendly. Most brands already apply this theory in their logos and brand guidelines, so continuing this thought process in your slides can create even more cohesion and understanding.
Find out more about using color effectively here.
4) Use Timelines
A great way to organize text-heavy slides that involve dates and events is to divide them into a timeline.
This is similar to the map idea above, in that it requires a certain type of information to be successful, but if you have dates and information, it’s much more effective to see them organized linearly than in a list of bullet points.
A timeline is a pretty simple element to create on PowerPoint and just involves a line and some evenly aligned and distributed boxes. Create your boxes using the Insert -> Shape functionality, then use the built-in alignment tools to space everything out neatly.
The last, and arguably most important, point is to get rid of text all together, and replace it with images.
For example, if you want to talk about a new product and its features, the best way of doing this is to insert an image of the product and just label it with key words.
You can insert shapes to pin-point areas you’d like to highlight and then animate them in on clicks so you can stagger the rate at which you mention each feature, which can help the audience follow along.
It’s also useful to have images of the product being used by customers so that you can show the audience exactly how it will look and work.
Being complacent and adding tons of text or bullet points to your presentations won’t do you any favors, because people will become instantly bored and disengaged while you’re presenting, and will start reading what’s on the screen instead of listening to the important things you’re saying.
By applying a couple of easy-to-learn tips to your next presentation, you can significantly increase its effectiveness and make it much more visually appealing. Your audience will stay engaged throughout your presentation and will remember more of the content you are sharing.
It’s amazing how much visuals can do to improve communication between a presenter and an audience, so just remember that the next time you’re pasting reams of text into a 25-slide deck: there are better ways.