Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Visual presentations: discover its power and how to harness it

Presentations are essential in conferences, lectures or other groups, to present our work, idea, or concept. And your purpose is to capture the attention of your audience. This depends on your public speaking skills, but it is also where the power of visual presentation lies. But it has… implications.

Images and words in good visual presentations

At a conference, a renowned scientist was presenting his lecture with a PowerPoint. All slides were textual, almost no images at all, and he literally read the slides… yes, I’m not kidding… As expected, 5min later almost everyone was asleep and I was disturbed asking myself how is this even possible.

Despite the rumor in the audience, he continued. He was using a slideshow as a document and this is common in most PowerPoint presentations. So, here the first implication.

Toss PowerPoint

I often hear people saying “could you send me you PowerPoint?”, well… I don’t use PowerPoint anymore. In my case, Apple’s Keynote is far superior for presentations, but other people are using Prezi or other presentation software which has nothing to do with PowerPoint.

Recently I read this expression – “toss PowerPoint” – in a book. The explanation lies in the fact that PowerPoint is a text-based presentation software, where a new slide always suggests an outline design, instead of a visual one.

 

Why visual matters

Presentations are not documents, but bear the opportunity of being visual experiences imprinting an idea in the audience.

You should consider tossing PowerPoint, symbolically, and move toward more visual presentations. I once read a chapter in a book about the impact of visual information in your brain. It said if you present your data orally, people remember 10% after 3 days. But if you add a picture to your oral presentation, people will remember 65%.

Images or films have a huge impact if you want your message to enter the minds and hearts of your audience. An image is worth a thousand words, but if you join images and words you have a powerful communication tool at your disposal. A practical advice regarding text in a slide is to limit the number of words to a maximum of 40, or no words at all.

 

Develop your Imaging Creativity

Your message is more important than the slides illustrating your words, but if these slides contain text instead of significant words, your discourse runs the risk of being replaced by your slides in the audience mind. This implies the need to develop your “imaging creative self”. Here are 3 ways you can do that through your slideshow presentation.

Keep it clean

Don’t use too much information inside one slide. I’ve done this mistake too often to know that. If you need, divide your information in multiple slides. The purpose is to make slides clean, allowing the audience to focus on a picture, graph, word, symbol, and provide an immersive visual experience.

Keep it colorful

Colors are an excellent way to express feeling and convey some emotion to your audience through your presentation. Use contrasting colors to aid in the visual perception of what is shown in the slide. Adobe has an online tool to explore color combinations that work.

Keep it simple

And this is probably the most important skill to master in a presentation. If your message is simple, the chances of making an impact in the hearts and minds of your audience increase. Here, I would recommend you to look into John Maeda’s 10 Laws of Simplicity. Insightful…

Question: have you ever experience the power of a visual presentation with an audience?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

Leave a Reply