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  • Writer's pictureJim M. Morgan

Executive communications: Visuals 101


As a communications professional for more than two decades, I have built more than my fair share of visual presentations. Often these presentations are designed to augment a speech, lecture or other verbal messaging. Though putting together a slide deck sounds simple enough, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when building a presentation.

 

1) Talking points should be developed before any slides. Slides should supplement talking points, not replace them.

 

2) An audience cannot read and listen at the same time. If you put a lot of text on the screen, your audience will try to read it, and they’ll do that rather than listen to you.

 

3) Never forget that slides are a visual medium. Prioritize strong images, simple text and statistics.

 

4) Be thoughtful about how much you use. Too many pictures, too much text, too many different fonts or colors. It becomes overwhelming, and it encourages your audience to tune out in self-defense.

 

5) They call them bullet points because they can kill your presentation. Use them sparingly.

 

6) Pretend you are writing a term paper the night before it is due and blow that font up. Here’s something you never hear: “That bar graph was way too legible!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a presenter say, “Now I know you cannot read it, but this graph shows that…”

 

7) Fill the screen, especially if you have a terrific image. You can think of them as “hero images” because they can save your presentation.

 

8) Respect the audience by streamlining your presentation. Say what you need to say as succinctly as possible.

 

9) Say it, don’t read it. Unless it’s an audio book, no adult wants to be read to by another adult. A surefire way to bore your audience – and betray a lack of confidence – is to read to them.

 

10) Again, slides should support and enhance – but not replace – your words. A rule of thumb I use is no more than three key points of three words each per slide.

 

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