Visual Design: Use Multimedia Wisely


When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple; rule number four: Slides Must Have Unity; and rule number five: Display Data Clearly.  Today, we examine the sixth rule:


I’ve noticed that if allowed, my students want to fill up a lot of speaking time with useless multimedia.  Audio and video must be used wisely, and every clip inserted into Keynote or PowerPoint should reinforce the speaker’s main idea.

Sometimes, my students throw video clips into Keynote that have little to nothing to do with their presentation topic.  When I question those students on why the video was included, I hear things like, “Because the video was cool!” or “Because I knew my audience would laugh at the video clip.”  If you’re using multimedia just because you believe it is funny or interesting, you should not use it in your slideshow.  The goal of multimedia is to support a main idea in your presentation.  Just as you would use research and source material in your speech, multimedia should be integrated seamlessly.  Video clips should tie to the speech content, but the speaker should also work to explain those relationships, too.

Multimedia should also be short and to the point.  I suggest using the QuickTime tool inside the Inspector in Keynote to cut down your audio or video clips and to only show the most important parts.  If your audience wants to know more, you can share the link to the full version with them.  After all, inspiring your audience to look up more information about your topic is positive… Boring your audience to tears with too-long videos is not.


The great thing about the QuickTime feature in the Inspector is that you don’t have to use any other program to cut down your multimedia… no iMovie, no FinalCut Pro.  The QuickTime tab allows you to adjust the “Start” and “Stop” times for your multimedia.

When it comes to making sure you are using multimedia wisely, ask yourself the following three questions:

1.  Is this audio or video clip directly related to my message?  How is this multimedia supporting or reinforcing my presentation’s content?

2.  Is this audio or video clip absolutely necessary?  What will my audience miss out on if I don’t include the multimedia?

3.  Can I cut down the audio or video?  What can I cut?  How much can I cut?

What other questions are important to ask when deciding whether or not to use multimedia?