Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video Connect emotionally, part of Learning Graphic Design: Presentations.
- Some presentations require empathy for uniting, vibrating together, changing minds. So you want to make an emotional connection with the audience. This presenter was addressing potential donors about backing his organization's animal rescue program. Great program, lots of success. They placed 1,220 dogs last year. And he needed his audience to connect to his appeal. This slide does the opposite. He threw it together just to have something up there, but that's never a good idea.
It's cheesiness degrades the dignity of the program. He would've been better with no slide than with this one. But here's a good approach. Instead of the clip art, use this photograph and this headline. Now you've raised the level. While you with your words are telling your story, your slide is talking to your audience on an entirely other level and they're responding emotionally. This slide is worth a thousand words.
Beauty is beautiful. Beauty can touch our deepest what? Beauty can touch our soul. A beautiful image can sweep us away into a world of wonder and imagination and fascination. It's what photographers are always looking for. It's what viewers always hope to see. So look for ways to use beauty. It can be as simple as this. The bamboo forests of Anji are fantastic. The largest in China.
And this slide tells the story. But it's too detailed. The types too small. This would work better as a magazine layout. So in stead of this, use this. And take your audience into the forest. And while they're feeling it, you tell them the story. If we see things we've seen before, we tend to stop seeing. Like, oh, that's an apple. If we think we know what's coming, we tend to stop seeing.
This is a natural cataloging thing our brain does. So to get around that, it helps to keep the audience a little off balance. This is good for everyone. It actually aids learning. One way to do it is to use surprise. For example, this speaker was encouraging his corporate audience to think about their distinctives. Meaning what makes them different from other organizations. But his slide isn't helping. What he did was decorate his notes.
Bar on the side, bar on the top, shadow on his type. But that's not communication. Instead, how about asking the question? Like this. It's simple, it's fun, it's familiar, it's surprising. The question has the audience doing what he wanted which is thinking about their distinctives while he talks them through it. A side note here, the apple and the orange are familiar things, that's important.
Just being weird or off the wall won't work. You'll be most successful by putting an unexpected twist on a familiar thing. Drama is theater. Theater creates an effect that's exciting, or unexpected, or impressive, or all of it. The way theater works is to exaggerate. Make the motions grander, make the contrast sharper, make the differences greater. Case in point, hmm.
The problem with a stock template should be obvious with this one. The globe, the gradient, the title, the by line, the page number, the date, all superfluous. They demand your eye but say nothing. The one point of the slide is know your goal. So home in on that and dramatize it. Easy with a photo. Impossible with a template. This is theater.
Look at the exaggeration. High camera angle, dark darks, light lights, every line pulling the same direction, it has shadow, lighting. It's a little bigger than life. It's slightly unrealistic. And it's effective. A lot of topics are not naturally photogenic. Insurance, government bonds. In these cases, visual metaphor is a useful option.
By that I mean this. Instead of throwing your data on screen, use this slide which conveys in a pretty simple metaphor that the Trax acquisition has completed your company or at least the most recent piece of your business puzzle. Then deliver the story orally with your charm, your tone of voice, your body language. If your talk has chapters or sections, you could use an image like this to introduce each one. It would be a nice hook.
We all like to laugh. But we had some manufacturing issues this month. We can put a chart up there and give out the sorry details, or we can show this picture which, my guess, they'll remember long after they've forgotten our numbers. Humor is especially effective when you're laughing at yourself. Art speaks not in words, but in the language of goosebumps and tears and joy and wonder.
The secret, though, is let it work. It can't be forced. Don't try to make art do what words do. NASA asked LinkedIn for help finding a new astronaut and LinkedIn discovered to its amazement that three million of its members were qualified. And realized that there must be many other similar moon shot opportunities at other walks of life. Out of that, they created the You're Closer Than You Think campaign. How to illustrate it? Instead of getting obvious by using words, they tapped into our imagination.
We've all dreamed of going into space. So picture an astronaut, one line of type, the company logo, and stop. The result is fantastic. This image embodies our aspirations, our achievements, our frailty, our humanity. Words, charts, graphs, none of those things can do this. The right image can move mountains. Take the time to find it and don't settle for something less.
If you can't find the right image, don't use one. As you evaluate images, think about how they'll interact with your copy or your talk. Don't use a photo merely to duplicate your words. But rather to add something that words alone can't say or would have a hard time saying. Sometimes that's easy. I can show you this cello far more easily than I can describe it. Other times, like with the astronaut, it's hard.
The point I want to emphasize, though, is to understand the immense value of the right image. And be persistent in your search.
Good presentations take time and thought. Design is too important to leave to a computer! Use these techniques to make personalized, thoughtful presentations that both educate and inspire.
- Putting data in a story form
- Using a simple background
- Choosing the right typeface
- Incorporating charts, photos, and illustrations
- Connecting emotionally with your audience