How to Use Visuals for Impact

How to Use Visuals for Impact

 (a.k.a. The 3 Secrets to Creating Dynamic Visuals)

You have a presentation coming up, and you need to create some presentation slides.

So, you do what many other leaders do. You sit down in front of PowerPoint or Keynote and spend hours looking at templates and themes. There are so many to choose from!

Which template will be best? You know you need visuals, but which style or theme will be most effective? Finally, you choose one and go to work, slide by slide, creating each one in sequence to get your message across.

But you end up with 40 slides. Way too many! So, you pour another cup of coffee and start chopping slides to try and keep your message intact.

After many hours of quality time with your presentation software, you find yourself in front of your audience. After a couple of minutes, you notice people checking their phones. They’re whispering, fidgeting in their seats. You’ve lost them. But you worked so hard! What went wrong?

I hear from business leaders time and time again that their audiences aren’t engaged with their presentation decks riddled with graphs and bulleted lists.  They wish they had the skills needed to create impactful visuals.

I’ve been there, too. On the quest to create a visually impactful presentation, most of us reach out for PowerPoint or Keynote from the get-go. But this is a mistake. Creating a presentation is about telling a story. And to tell a story, you need a different approach.


Secret 1: Start with a Pen and Paper, not PowerPoint or Keynote

To create a visually powerful presentation, you need to write a good story. A linear slide-by-slide approach to creation is not effective. I compare it to designing and building a house from left to right. Instead, you need a clear and inviting storyline that flows. To do this, you’ll likely find it’s much easier to pull out a pen and paper and sketch the story. If one doesn’t have sufficient clarity on the story, one can’t determine which key messages need to be communicated.                                                

Here a few things I define to get started:

  1. Desired Outcome: What do you want to occur after the presentation? What do you want your audience to feel, believe and do next?
  2. Current State: Where is your audience currently at on this topic? How do they feel, what do they believe, and what do they typically do?
  3. Successful Journey: Looking at what you articulated for the Current State and Desired Outcome, what can you share that together will take your audience on a Successful Journey?  What is important to your audience that will be of interest to them?


Secret 2: Select the Right Type of Visual for the Message.

In the corporate world, embedding charts and graphs is standard. Yes, graphs and charts are effective for quantifying things, but there are many other types of visuals that can have more of an impact for different types of messages. Some examples of different types of visuals are:

  • Portraits of people to show who is being affected by the presentation topic
  • Timelines to demonstrate things needing to occur in sequence
  • Flowcharts to articulate cause and effect
  • Equations to share conclusions
  • Icons instead of words

A variety of visuals will strengthen a presentation while punctuating your story, which brings us to our final secret...


Secret 3: Use a Variety of Visual Types in one Cohesive Look.

To create a strong impact, use a variety of visuals like those shared earlier in one defined, branded look. Having a slide with a timeline, another with a portrait, a couple with graphs, etcetera, gives you variety to get more attention from your audience. A branded look will pull your story together, guiding your viewers through the material with ease. To do this, simply make sure you use consistent fonts and colours throughout your presentation deck. Does your company have a logo? Use it! A slogan? Try to work it in.

By applying all three of these secrets, you’ll significantly increase the visual impact of your presentations. As a result, you’ll have more engaged audiences, and, most importantly, you’ll inspire more of the change you seek.


Interested in listening to an audio on this topic?  Then click here to go to the podcast episode page.