5 More Tips for Visual Presentations

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Inspired by my favorites, Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte, I am now passionate about visual presentation.  Though I am guilty of killing my audience with bulleted slides in the past, now that I know better, I condemn presentations that follow the death-by-PowerPoint style.  Once you’ve mastered the basics (review them here), use these five tips to hone the craft of constructing visual presentations:

Tip #1: Select simple yet powerful images to get your message across.  In this image, the simplicity of a park bench in the snow attracts the audience’s attention because of the power of the scene.  The focal point is clearly the bench because of the white space (here, literal “white space” because of the snow in the background), and the eyes are drawn to the empty bench immediately.  Since this slide contains such a simple, easy to digest focal point, the audience gets it without having to think about it.  This type of slide is known as glance media.  Your audience can then focus on the meaning behind the slide because the message is understood after only a glance.  Your slide is powerful because you are forcing the audience’s eyes and, then, their minds.

Tip #2: Search for high quality images.  Google search is never a good place to start.  Think about this: a Keynote slide is 1024 by 768, so you want an image that is at least that size.  (Personally, I always go larger, as making an image smaller is never an issue.  Trying to stretch a tiny image onto a large canvas never works, and the image becomes blurry and distorted.)  A wonderful place to find high quality images is Flickr.  Flickr is a website photographers use to post their high resolution photography, so the images are not only large, but of the finest caliber.  Beautiful images with no distortion = easy for your audience to digest.  And if you’re thinking about using clip art, please step away from the computer and out of the 1980s.

Tip #3: Each slide should be driven by the image.  Most PowerPoint slides make the mistake of using text as the focal point.  The picture superiority effect states that people remember images more than any other medium (such as text).  If you want to make a slide that people remember, make it visual, and make it image-driven.  If you’d rather the audience concentrate on text, give them a handout.  There is a HUGE difference between a report and a visual presentation.  Learn more about the difference here.

Tip #4: Don’t cram a bunch of stuff on your slide.  The antithesis of cramming a bunch of stuff on your slide is elegance.  Elegance is refined, dignified, tasteful, and cleverly simple (Source).  Think of a ballerina.  She is graceful with perfect awareness of every movement she makes.  Similarly, be aware of every single facet of your slide: the image, the text, the empty space.  Everything should work together to support a simple, tasteful, refined meaning.  When it is tweaked and polished enough, a finished slideshow should be elegant.

Tip #5: Nature inspires us with its perfect beauty.  Slides depicted nature are calming, soothing, and organic to your audience.  Imagine how it feels to be on a warm beach with the wind blowing in your hair and the ocean lapping at your feet.  Put your audience in that tranquil state of mind by using an image of the sea.  Take cues from nature when creating your slideshow, and carry these cues onto your speech delivery.  Garr Reynolds teaches us how to learn from the bamboo as well as the spring and the cherry blossom.

Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due!  Always cite your images on a References slide.  I also provide a source link on each individual slide to show attribution.

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