Less Text – More Imagery

April 19, 2013

The rules for creating  the oral part of a great speech have remained constant for thousands of years. Great orators have always just stood and talked, enthralling their audiences with their wit and eloquence. However , there is one aspect of presenting which has undergone massive changes over the last few years. That is the use and content of the visual aids. This has radically changed most business presentations over the last few years.

Over the last ten years there has been a trend to reduce the amount of text on slides and increase the amount of high quality imagery. No doubt the growing capacity of even the smallest laptop to store and display high-resolution visuals and the availability of such images on the internet has been at least partly responsible.

Research has shown that an audience’s ability to remember what a speaker has said is greatly increased if pictures are used to illustrate the points being made. Even good old Confucius said “I hear  I forget, I see I remember”. Now in the early days of PowerPoint people misinterpreted this to mean that if they displayed a slide full of bullet points their message would be better understood and remembered for longer.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. These days if you put up a slides full of bullet points your are more likely to hear yawns from the audience, and get accused of causing death by PowerPoint. The trouble is that many people just don’t know what else to do.

In this article what I am going to do is show you how to evolve your slides from paragraphs of text, to bullet points and then on to picture based slides which will have far more impact on your audience, and get them to remember what you were talking about for far longer.

An Example

Say you were giving a presentation about the three key components to a healthy lifestyle. In the old days you may have created a slide like this:

Slide1

Then people started using the PowerPoint templates and with the addition of some clip art it look more like this:

Slide2

As the importance of graphics becomes clearer you may have created a slide like this:

Slide3

This one uses a custom template design, but although the images are now, photographs rather than clip art, most of the text is still there.

Finally, the modern approach might be to split it on to three slides, thus obeying the rule “one point – one slide”, with very little text on the slide. The onus is now on the presenter to fill in the additional information which is no longer on display.

Slide4

The pictures now take up the whole screen, so the corporate template with its headings and logos has disappeared, but the audience get the full effect of the pictures. And as the old saying goes A picture is worth a thousand words.

Slide5

Slide6

Hopefully you would agree that seeing the three separate slides being brought up as the presenter talks about the importance of good quality food, regular exercise and good sleep, would be more effective that the initial all text slide.

My question to you is:  How old are your slides? Are you still using bullet points?

I would like to gain an overall impression of how advanced people’s slide design is, as such I have a very short survey which I would like you to complete. You can find it here on Survey Monkey.

The design of visual aids has changed, if your presentations have not kept pace with modern thinking, your prospects and customers may think that your business is old fashioned too.

By Graham Young

Young Markets

www.businesspresentation.biz


Interactive Presentations

March 18, 2011

Any one who follows me or has been on one of my presentation training courses will know I am a proponent of interactive presentations. The more your audience participates in your presentation the longer and better they will remember it. As Confucius once said “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand”

With small audiences gaining that participation is relatively easy but the larger the audience gets the harder it becomes. The other day I came across a new product from a dutch company which will change this forever. It is called Shakespeak and essentially what it allows people to do is interact with your PowerPoint presentation using their mobile phone.

In PowerPoint you can set up either a multiple choice closed question or an open question, then when you arrive at that part of your presentation, everyone can phone in their answers, using SMS, an internet link or Twitter. The responses are then shown on the next slide, as a chart or a list of text.

There is no need for any expensive polling equipment, as everyone has a mobile these days, all you need is a laptop with an internet connection running PowerPoint.

The service is very easy to use and enables you to find out exactly what your audience are thinking there and then. You no longer have to rely on their body language or facial expressions to work out if they are interested in what you are saying, you can ask them. In educational sessions, you can check if they are understanding what you are teaching, by dropping in the occasional question. New product launches could be made more interactive by asking how people might use the new product. Sales presentations could prompt for current problems that need to be addressed. Rather than leaving people feeling uncertain you could prompt them to send in any questions they might have, so that you can answer them there and then.

Answers to open questions can be up to 160 characters long so there is ample space to pose a question or express a sentiment.

So get your thinking caps on about what questions you could be asking your audiences, make you presentations more interactive, more memorable and more effective. You can even try Shakespeak for free, just download it from their website.

By the way, I have no association with this product or the company, I just think it is a great new tool.


Ban the Bullets

January 27, 2011

Around the world, in every office, conference room and meeting room, every minute, of every day people are standing up giving presentations with a list of bullet points displayed on the screen behind them. Now just because millions of people do it does it make it right? The short answer is NO !Ban the Bullets

Using bullet points in your presentations is:

  • Lazy
  • Ineffective
  • Futile

They rarely help the overall communications process which the presentation is trying to achieve.

While it is true that the human memory is better at retaining visual information rather than aural information, using bullet points distracts the listener from what the presenter is saying while they read the bullets. Then when the presenter repeats what the audience has just read, it is old news. And we all know how boring it is to hear old news repeated!

If, in an attempt to be more interesting, the presenter rephrases the bullet points in his oration this just ends up confusing the audience as they hear one thing but see something different.

So using bullet points in your presentation is a “lose-lose” situation.

Why do so many people use bullet points? I believe they are a bi-product of the presentation’s development. When you are developing your thoughts for a presentation is very useful to write down short bullet points and to be able to re-order, add and delete points as you think through your presentation. The result being a sheet or sheets of paper covered with a long list of bullet points. The problem comes when people transcribe these bullets into the presentation software.

This usually happens for one of to reasons:

A)     The presenter doesn’t know any better.

B)     The presenter feels that he/she needs the reminders to help them present the information and keep the presentation on track.

In the latter case, I would suggest that the bullet points are transcribed on to the speaker’s notes, not the slides. That way the speaker can be reminded of what to say, without broadcasting it in advance to his audience.

Using the slides to remind you what to say turns the whole process of giving a presentation on its head. Rather than the presenter leading the presentation with the visual aids supporting what he says, it makes the slides lead the presentation with the presenter demoted to the role of describing what the slides say. In the worst cases the presenter becomes completely redundant as the audience can read the slides and understand the points themselves. The “presenter” would have been better off sending everyone an email, far more efficient.

Hopefully, I have now convinced you that bullet points are not good for your presentations. This raises the next question; what else should you put on our visual aids, or should we do away with the slides altogether?

Personally, I believe slides can help get your message across and help to make it more memorable. After all it was Confucius who once said, “I hear I forget, I see I remember”. What should go on the slides though? Well the clue is in the name, “visual aids”. Your slides should conjure up strong mental images which reinforce what you are saying.

The best example of this I have come across was in a presentation about global warming. The speaker was making the point that what happens in relation to global warming is all down us as individuals. To illustrate the point that one person can make a difference he put up a slide with three images: “American policemen beating up a black person”,”Martin Luther King” and “President Barack Obama”, what a change in one generation!

So I appeal to your better judgement, Ban the Bullets, be more creative and make your presentations work.

If you agree with me the bullet points should be banned from professional presentations, please add you name in the comments box below or take my poll


I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand.

November 23, 2009

Today’s presentation twip on Twitter, from me was:

Confucius said “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand” get your audience doing something.

Let me elaborate on this quick twip.

I HEAR  – I FORGET

If all you do in a presentation is stand and talk at a group of people, the will hear what you say but then most of them will quickly forget it.  If you don’t believe my, think about all the presentations you have heard, how many do you actually remember everything that was said?  How many do you remember some of what was said? And how many have you completely forgotten?

I’m willing to bet that the majority are in the last category.

I SEE – I REMEMBER

Now, why do people use powerpoint when the give a presentation?  Okay, there are all the wrong reasons for using PowerPoint, like to remind the speaker what to say, because everyone else does, because that’s what they always do etc etc.,  but the good reason for using visual aids is that, if used properly, the will help the audience to remember what is is you have been talking about.

Tests have shown that people remember more when they see it as well as hear it.

I DO – I UNDERSTAND

However, if you really want people to understand what you are talking about you have to make them do it. You have to get them mentally if not physically involved in the process.

It is like driving to a new location. The first time you go somewhere you probably need to get the map out to find out where it is and how to get there, but having driven it once you can then go back there without having to refer to the map.

Now if you were just a passenger on the first trip to the location, and then you have to drive yourself the next time, you probably will not remember exactly where it is and how to get there and have to resort back to the map or satnav. That is because as a passenger you just heard and saw things, but you didn’t do it and as such you don’t understand exactly where you went.

So to make a presentation work you can’t just talk at you audience, you need to make them think. Ask them questions, make them list things down on paper, get them to put their hands up, compare feelings with the person next to them or get them to imagine a particular scenario.

This last suggestion is why storytelling is such a powerful presentation technique. By telling a story your audience can associate with, it takes them to a different environment or situation in their head. The more realistic you make the story the easier it is to suck your audience in to that story. So use as many of their senses as you can in relating the story, what they would see, what it feels like, what it tastes like or smells like.

Don’t let your audience be passengers in your presentations, make them particpants.

To discover more successful presentation strategies, visit my presentation web site or come on my presentation training course.


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