Speaker toolkit – part four: high impact visuals

Slides and visuals continue to be an important part of public speaking. So, how do you make sure you are using slides to create maximum impact and avoid death by PowerPoint?

First, it’s key to know why you are using slides. Some of the best talks won’t use any visuals and so it’s important to use them for the right reasons. Here are some effective ways to use visuals to support your talk or presentation:

Reveal something that is hard to describe
The old saying is true – a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes slides have a very simple purpose of illustrating something that is hard to describe, completely new to the audience, or would take far too long to explain. From graphs to x-ray images, these type of visuals should quickly and easily illustrate the idea, argument, concept and/or point you are trying to make.

Help keep your audience on track
Imagine you are sitting through a lecture that lasts an hour. It’s incredibly difficult to hold all the information being presented to you in your head. In this scenario, slides should be used to help keep your audience on track: reminding them of what you are saying or has already said, the ideas or argument you are building on and signposting where the talk is going to end. Think of these slides as useful narrative stepping stones so your audience can stay with you throughout the journey of your talk.

Create feelings
Many speakers want to inspire, shock or wow their audiences. And visuals are one of the ways to help create certain feelings in the room. You can create wonder and awe by presenting something exceptionally beautiful – perhaps an image of stunning landscape. Or maybe you want to create impact by revealing a raw truth – such as a video on the consequences of global warming. Whatever feelings you want to invoke in the audience, slides and visuals can be a big part of this process.

However, with all the above reasons to use slides, please always ensure you write your talk first and create your slides second. This way you ensure the slides are not dictating the structure or content of your talk. Remember slides are always used to compliment your talk’s content, not the other way around!

Now, you have worked out what kind of slides you need, listen to Maryam’s advice below on how to design your slides for maximum impact using some simple guidelines: