How to use visual thinking to transform your presentations

How to use visual thinking to transform your presentations

If you’ve sat through one boring powerpoint too many – take heart – data doesn’t need to be difficult and presentations don’t have to be dull. Emma Bannister founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of Visual Thinking: How to Transform the Way You Think, Communicate and Influence with Presentations gives us the goss on how to take your presentations next level.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how people understand information. Probably because the learning methods at school rarely engaged me. Even now, if I’m told something – a sequence of words, an address, even people’s names – I forget it in seconds. Why?” says Bannister.

“Remember A is for apple, B is for banana? From a young age, we were taught to associate words with images or objects then suddenly this stops and everything becomes just words,” says Bannister.

Bannister believes this is where the problem stems.

“Teachers, small business professionals and presenters show dense text and bullet-pointed slides on a projector. At work, we are subjected to reports, strategy meetings and whiteboards that follow the same formula. (Talk about boring.)

“Yet according to Dr. John Medina, author of New York Times bestseller Brain Rules, we have an incredible memory for pictures. He explains: ‘The more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognised and recalled’,”Bannister explains.

“In cognitive theory, this is called the ‘picture supremacy effect’” adds Bannister. “People generally understand and remember pictures better and faster than they do words alone. In fact, 90% of what the brain processes is visual information.”

So given that we are hard-wired for visual learning, Bannister says this means you need to create diagrams and imagery that emphasise or explain your main points when you present.

Here is Bannister’s top tips

Visualise your idea

Vision is our primary sense (making up 70 per cent of our sensory receptors), so our presentation needs minimal text and lots of images, photography, icons or illustrations to help simplify and communicate your information clearly.

Images also create an emotional connection to what you are saying, which helps your audience remember it. Think of the meaning or the feeling you are trying to evoke and represent that with colour and images. Black is sophisticated, elegant and powerful; while white is peaceful and virtuous.

Avoid hand-shaking figures, smiling suited people, little vector people standing on arrows and graphs, and predictable and boring stock images that have been used a hundred times before.

Cheesy stock photos have the opposite effect than the one you want – they turn your audience off.

Instead, include real photos of your team in your presentation – make it about them and their future (because it is). I’ve also seen video used quite effectively to engage with the audience and pull on the heartstrings.

Turn data into diagrams

Some people think that sharing everything and blinding your audience with numbers is the way to be transparent – that couldn’t be further from the truth! That will only turn-off the very people you are trying to engage.

You need to replace long lists of data with images and illustrations that support what you are saying to create emotional impact and engage your audience. Help tell the story (think of how drawings work in a comic strip or book).

Provide your audience with effective visuals like infographics to help them understand and digest the information quickly.

Infographics work wonders at simplifying large amounts of data and numbers. They are very effective for complicated concepts or when you are presenting comparisons.

Using these visual references helps create clarity and a much stronger emotional connection with your audience. It’s these kinds of emotions and visuals that they will remember long after your presentation is finished.

Just try it and see.






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