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Create a Visually Persuasive Presentation

A good presentation does more than simply convey data: It inspires people to remember and act upon it. And since visuals are a big part of presentations, it is crucial that they result in "visually persuasive storytelling."

June 30, 2009
Related Topics: Technology

Let's face it: Everyone has sat through at least one presentation that prompted nearly incessant watch-checking. Either the slides were lackluster, the material seemed irrelevant or the speaker was dull. And after the meeting, the information presented - even if genuinely valuable or necessary - was quickly forgotten.

A good presentation does more than simply convey data: It inspires people to remember and act upon it. And since visuals are a big part of presentations, it is crucial that they be good - or, according to Juliet Huck, CEO of graphic design consultancy TheHuckGroup, that they result in "visually persuasive storytelling."

"If people don't trust the presenter, and they can't relate to the information, you've lost the relationship," Huck explained. "What the presenter wants to do is get out of their own shoes, really know their audience, make sure that the information they're presenting is credible and they can back it up, and create some type of relationship with the information for the person they're presenting to. [It's] making sure the information you're presenting is really relating to your audience in a personal way that evokes a little bit of emotion - they can be attached to it, or they can have some kind of understanding because they've been through it before."

Talent managers often have to give presentations or are responsible for assisting other organizational leaders in delivering theirs. Huck offered several tips to ensure these presentations are as effective as possible:

1.Know the audience. "The first one is truly understanding your audience and finding issues that relate to your audience," Huck said. "Because you can show people a great picture, but if they don't relate to it...."

2.Define intentions. "First you have to decide exactly what your goal is. Be very clear," Huck said. "Then work backwards from the goal [to build your presentation]."

3.Simplify the message. Don't try to fit too many things into one presentation. Convey the appropriate information in the most straightforward way. People have an easier time acting when the message is clear.

"Our job is to go into the meat of the information, break it down into really simple form and put it together in chapters," Huck explained. "[Then] we go in and do story boards and really work through a visual story long before we really produce graphics."

4.Tell a story. "To be a really good, persuasive messenger, you have to draw that audience in," Huck said. "Be a good storyteller - and not a salesperson."

5.Highlight pertinent information. "As you're presenting graphics, don't go in and just pull a chart out of [Microsoft] Excel and pop it into Power Point," Huck said. "Find the point of the graphic and make sure it's emphasized. For instance, if you want to take a graphic that [shows] a percentage of growth, don't just put the line in there and expect people to say, ‘Oh, it's going up.' At the end of the line, put in the percentage, so people really understand this is 50 percent growth. You [also] have to put into the graphic why 50 percent is a good number. [So, you should] say, ‘50 percent growth is 25 percent more than last year.'"

6.Use the right colors. It sounds rudimentary, but most people have deep-rooted cultural attachments to certain colors that should be considered when you're developing a presentation.

"I look very specifically at basic design elements like layering, color, what color communicates," Huck said. "Red communicates negative, stopping. Blue communicates go, authority, things like that. We're really subjected to [this] from a very young age. Use color as a communication tool to guide the audience to say, ‘This was bad' and ‘This was good.'"

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