Remember A is for apple, B is for banana? From a young age, we were taught to associate words with images or objects and then, suddenly, this stops and everything becomes just words.
Teachers, corporates 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 John Medina, author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules, we have an incredible memory for pictures. “The more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognised and recalled,” he explains.
In cognitive theory, this is called the ‘picture supremacy effect’ – people generally understand and remember pictures better and faster than they do words alone.
So given that we are hardwired for visual learning, this means you need to create diagrams and imagery that emphasise or explain your main points in a presentation.
Visualise your idea
Vision is our primary sense, 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. For instance, black is commonly associated with sophistication, elegance and power, while white stands for peace and purity.
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 to 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 heart strings.
Communicate with impact
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.