Warning: good visuals may help your audience remember your presentation

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Whether you are a professional presenter or trainer, or putting together your very first presentation for your new job or business venture, presentations are hard work. Working on your speech, your materials and your research is a huge investment of time and energy.

What are the results you want in return for that investment?

You want to see and feel that your audience is engaged. Is there a better feeling than standing in front of a group, and knowing that you have their attention, and are holding them in the palm of your hand? It’s a palpable energy – you can feel it, and your audience can feel it.

You want them to learn what you are teaching, join what you are promoting, or enjoy what you are presenting.

You want your audience to remember you and retain at least some of what you spent all that time putting together. Ideally, you want them to remember it all, leave excited by your charisma, and spread the word about how amazing you are (or your product, your idea or your teaching).

Good visuals keep your audience engaged

I would say that, wouldn’t I? Our business is about helping other businesses and presenters create great visual messages to support their spoken presentation. However, we don’t believe great visuals are important just because they are pretty. In fact, a great visual isn’t necessarily pretty. What it should be is clear, concise and visually relevant.

But here’s the thing. We know that they are a powerful tool in your arsenal, because they actually help your audience to remember what you are talking about.

Don’t believe me? Here are some statistics*

“In many studies, experimental psychologists and educators have found that retention of information three days after a meeting or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone.”

Include visuals and your audience is six times more likely to remember what you were saying. So not only are they more engaged while you’re presenting to them, it also help them to retain what you have told them.

Do you agree? Does this statistic make sense? Think back to some presentations you have sat through (perhaps endured in some cases). What differentiated the good ones from the bad ones? Did you enjoy any of them? And why?

You want to be unforgettable, and using well-crafted visuals will help to make sure this is exactly what happens.

“Studies by educational researchers suggest that approximately 83% of human learning occurs visually, and the remaining 17% through the other senses – 11% through hearing, 3.5% through smell, 1% through taste, and 1.5% through touch.”

I have to admit, this figure surprised me a little bit initially. 83% of learning occurs visually? Wow.

The fact is, though, that visual language is something we are all intuitively very good at. You may not realise it consciously – you may even scoff at the suggestion – but we consume staggering amounts of visual information every single day. Your subconscious is constantly digesting this information, and in the process learning how to ‘read’ the messages.

You are more visually literate than you may ever have imagined. And so is your audience.

So what should you be putting on your slides?

If you don’t have the budget for design assistance, you can still add plenty of value to your slides. Just keep a few simple rules in mind when preparing:

1. Keep it simple.

Don’t use lots of different colours. Keep the font sizes consistent from slide to slide. Resist all the ‘amazing’ animations that PowerPoint has on offer.

2. Keep it brief

Try to just have one idea or message per slide. Limit yourself to 4-5 bullets per slide.

3. Introduce your visual

Your audience should either be listening or reading, but not both. Take a few seconds to explain your visual as it appears so that their attention is focused on what you’re saying. This way they will stay with you when you continue talking, rather than focusing their attention on the slide behind you.

4. Be careful when selecting images

Don’t use Clip Art. Please! There are so many great resources around where you can pick up high quality photography or illustrations for very reasonable prices. Cheesy, cliched imagery is no-one’s friend.

Do you have any tips for making your presentations interesting and keeping your audience engaged?

About the Author


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Cathy is the engine behind Two10 Solutions, as well as the designer behind many of our projects. When not juggling the demands of running Two10, she sometimes finds time to work on the odd photography project.

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