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Enhance the Impact of Your Presentations

You have finished writing your presentation. The storyline has been given careful consideration. The slides are thoughtfully wordsmithed, conveying just the right message and tone – definitely a job well done. But as you review the finished presentation, you realize that it lacks the visual impact, or punch, that you wanted.


There are five core methods for enhancing the visual impact of your presentation:

  1. Restructure bulleted text into word tables or conceptual charts
  2. Convert word and number tables into data-driven charts
  3. Import photographs and clipart to add interest and establish tone
  4. Use frameworks and diagrams to give motion and context to your concepts
  5. Animate on-screen presentations.

Any one of these methods used alone will add value and appeal to your presentations, but using all the methods in concert will produce a spectacular presentation – engaging, more highly interpretive, and a great visual support to your verbal presentation.

Restructure Bulleted Text into Word Tables or Conceptual Charts

Bulleted text is the most overused device found in presentations. Thankfully, there are alternatives: word tables and conceptual charts. Both can be used to restructure bulleted text so that:

  1. The real estate of the page or slide is more meaningfully utilized
  2. The subject and supporting information for each bullet can be more easily identified and better understood by the audience
  3. Relationships can be established between each of the bullet points.

It's easy to stop presenting material in list form if you understand the alternatives.

A Typical Bulleted Text Page

Too many pages of bulleted text put your audience to sleep. Although there is nothing technically wrong with using bulleted text – and it is even preferred in some situations – overuse can actually diminish the overall message you are delivering. To the left is a typical bulleted text slide. Now, let's look at some alternatives.

Note: when you do use bulleted text (sparingly), be sure that you use it correctly. Be sure the bullets are parallel, e.g., all begin with verb, all posed as questions, all sentence fragments.

Bulleted Text Restructured into Word Table

Text tables add a bit of interest, especially when you develop a nice, stylistic format and use it consistently throughout your presentation(s). The chart below contains the same information as the previous bulleted list. Did you notice that there is now more useful information on the slide and it's not bunched up under each bullet? The audience gets a complete overview of the objectives, but the slide is not cluttered or set up with long text strings (which is less preferred). Also notice that the table text is more action oriented than the bulleted text above.

Text tables can be used as a document-structuring device as well as (if not better than) bulleted text:: major topics in left-hand and center columns and supporting topics in the right-hand column. Just place this page before each section and highlight the topics that are going to be discussed.

Bulleted Text Restructured into Conceptual Chart

Conceptual charts tell more of a story than bullets or text tables. In the chart below, which uses the same text as the previous two slides, relationships are established and a flow of implications is illustrated, which results in the forecast. The presenter does not have to work so hard conveying the concept when a conceptual chart like this is employed to do the heavy lifting.

Conceptual charts can be used very effectively as a document-structuring device, better than bullets or tables because they can be also be used as a tracker (a reduced version of the framework placed on every page with highlighted segments to keep track of the presenter's position within the storyline).

This conceptual chart is a combination of two frameworks found in the PowerFrameworks library. Complex message "stories" often require more than one framework.

Convert Word and Number Tables into Data-Driven Charts

Text or tables containing numbers are many times just raw data that can be better presented in data-driven chart formats. Data-driven charts help audiences understand and interpret the material quickly, and presenters don't have to work so hard. Be sure you select the correct data-driven chart type to deliver the message, however, as it is key to a successful interpretation. For example, line charts show trends, bar charts show rankings (vertical base line), area charts show volumes and trends together, scatter charts show concentrations, and so on

Be sure that the colors you choose for your data-driven charts are in your template's color palette. It seems like a small thing, but consistency within your presentation adds to the credibility of the material being presented. Additionally, reserve color as a tool. Resist the urge to make, for example, segments in segmented column, pie, or segmented bar charts different colors to add a "little interest." Instead, reserve the use of color for highlighting segments to focus your audiences' attention.

Text and Number Table

Text and number tables require lots of interpretation and never really tell a whole story. Whenever possible, opt for a data-driven chart to deliver the information. Then you can focus on explaining the finer points of your message instead of explaining what is made obvious by the data-driven chart. Notice that the text and number table below presents columns that add up to 100 percent for each year studied and a comparison of percentages from year to year.

Compare the data with the area chart below. The data is exactly the same, but the message is different. When making decisions about whether to present with tables or data-driven charts, ask yourself a couple of questions. "Is it more important for the audience to know the exact figures or to visualize the volumes and trends? What is my message? Answers to these questions will help you decide the correct format.

Text and Number Table Converted to Data-Driven Chart

The chart to the left gives a quicker interpretation of yearly share and share trends over time. The numbers can be eliminated because the relationships between the players and the trends are more important than knowledge of the exact data. If the chart is moved from the center to the left side of the slide, there would be enough room for a takeaway message to be included, which would be hard to accomplish with the table above without compromising the readability of the data.

Import Photographs and Clipart to Add Interest and Establish Tone

Carefully select and use photographs and clipart to add interest and assist with establishing tone. In addition to those that are offered with your presentation software, there are a number of good, reasonably priced photo services and clipart packages that have thousands of searchable images. Select only those images that complement the design elements of your template and convey the right message/tone. You can also combine photographs and frameworks for added effect.

Another Typical Bulleted Text Page

It does the job, but it doesn't excite or engage. Let your imagination come out to play and consider some alternatives. Compare the chart on the right to the chart below:

the information is exactly the same. But adding the photograph and a simple layout makes a much more engaging slide.

Bulleted Text Page with Added Photographs

The graphic "ribbon" on the chart below provides a place to make the "winning team" point along with setting tone without adding another bullet level. The chart can deliver the presenter's message and drive the point home. The graphic ribbon can also be used in other places within your presentation (using different pictures and messages, of course). Several of these slides appropriately placed within the presentation create unity and consistency.

Bulleted Text with Added Photographs and Frameworks

Adding a photograph and a framework can intensify the message. The frameworks themselves tell their own story apart from the text. For example, the puzzle frameworks in the slide below are icons for a team or department. In the top puzzle, puzzle pieces fit perfectly together because the person has the desired skill set. In the middle puzzle, the empty space is being filled with a puzzle piece that is too small, implying that it will not be a perfect fit until training occurs and experience is gained. The bottom puzzle ceases to have seven pieces and the remaining six get bigger, implying that the department reduces in size and the remaining employees' workloads increase. The text in the slide is exactly the same as the bulleted list, but a wealth of additional information is being conveyed.

Use Frameworks and Diagrams to Give Motion and Context to Your Message

Frameworks can help present a complex set of ideas very rapidly and enhance the audience's grasp of the material. Most presentation software is equipped with all of the necessary tools for building almost any framework needed. But the challenge has always been that the development of frameworks can take a lot of production time – until now. PowerFrameworks offers a large and growing library of frameworks and design elements for immediate use.

You have already seen examples of how frameworks can be used to enhance the text communication in your presentations, but let's look at another example of how a hard-working framework clarifies a presenter's complex message.

This slide is a Gantt chart variation and is comprised of three frameworks: the flow structure, conveyor belt, and the loops. It goes from left to right according to the time elements and up and down for complex and multiple reviews and approvals. Notice that the weeks are separate fields so they can be individually colored, adding another level of information. Adding many layers of information to a chart increases its usefulness and value.

Animate On-Screen Presentations

Animation choices can either enhance your presentation or very quickly detract from it. Use animation carefully and purposefully. Select animations according to the text message. If your text implies bursting onto the scene, then a dramatic animation can be used. If your text implies a flow, animate according to the flow direction being described.

Do not just add animation to inject a little pizzazz into the presentation. Instead, add interest by way of content. Animation should not be expected to save a badly written/drawn slide or presentation; it should be used to support the message being delivered – animation is a tool, not a flourish.

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It takes more time to develop visually vibrant presentations. But it's time well spent when the impact of a presentation is enhanced. Audiences recognize and appreciate the effort.

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