7 Reasons You Need Maps In Your Next Presentation

1) Maps are Incredibly Useful

When was the last time you considered using a map in your presentation?  Maps are so prevalent and useful in our everyday lives that odds are you’ve already examined one today as either part of a google search, or for assistance driving into work.  If they are so helpful in your daily life, then why not consider using one in your next presentation?

2) Maps Are Intelligent Visuals, Add Credibility and are a Great Reference

Remember, maps are fundamentally a representation of spatial data.  Maps are often the perfect fusion of art, design, and science.  Maps are a great example of intelligent visuals.  Don’t use mindless clip art on that Powerpoint slide!  Instead, use a captivating and proven tool; a map!  A colorful map really stands out.  And it is the ultimate visual aid adding immediate credibility to your presentation, as well as serving as a reference source.  Although using maps to deceive can be accomplished, (for example, cartographic tricks can be employed in the production of propaganda), maps and their information are generally regarded as reliable and trustworthy.  Capitalize on the enduring credence of maps.

3) Maps Tell a Story

Every map tells a spatial story.  You are telling a story to your audience with your presentation.  Why not let a map showcase your story for you and eliminate those dreaded bullet points?  Overlaying even a single arrow on a map to show direction, flow, movement, etc. makes the point in your audiences’ brain in a fraction of the time it would take them to read a bullet statement.  In addition, substituting a map in lieu of a bullet point prevents you from reading the slide and encourages a more natural, and smoother speaking flow in your storytelling.


4) Maps Link to Almost Anything

Geography is a unique academic discipline in that it is the only one that links to virtually all the others via spatial exploration and spatial relationships.  Displaying these findings and relationships is done through maps.  Just think of all the different topics you’ve seen represented on a map: animal populations, human migrations, money flows, disease outbreaks, historical changes over time, voting percentages, home prices, proximities and distances, census demographics, obesity rates, twitter heat maps, magnitudes, landmarks and chokepoints, etc.  The possibilities for information display on maps is almost endless!  It is almost a certainty you can harness the benefits of maps for the information in your presentation as well.

5) So Many Types of Maps

The types of maps available mean there is almost certainly one that fits your needs.  For example, choropleth maps are thematic maps in which areas are shaded or patterned in proportion to the measurement of the statistical variable being displayed on the map, such as population density or per-capita income. And a heat map (or heatmap) is a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors.  Source: Wikipedia.  These are just two types; there are many more with all kinds of purposes.  Find the one that suits your presentation best.

6) Maps Are a Flexible Tool

Maps can display a large amount of information, or be a minimalist creation.  Often they can display a large volume of data without overwhelming an audience; quite an achievement when you consider how fast just a few wordy bullet points put your audience in snooze mode!  Also, maps lend themselves well to the animations and slide building tools available in Powerpoint.  Consider that with just one map and the animation tools in Powerpoint, you can cycle through a vast amount of information and potentially avoid bullet points altogether in your presentation!  

7) Maps Provide Accelerated Learning and Improved Memory Retention

Dr. Haig Kouyoumdjian notes in his Pyschology Today article, “Learning Through Visuals,” that a large body of research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. The research outcomes on visual learning make complete sense when you consider that our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor. In fact, the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.  He also points out how abstract and difficult words are for the human brain to process and that countless studies have confirmed the power of visual learning.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201207/learning-through-visuals

Still not convinced?  When was the last time you encountered a textbook that was all text?  Use a map, and ditch those awful bullet points!

Hopefully these seven reasons have shown you the power and utility of maps and you will employ them in future presentations.  Remember, according to the founder of TED Talks, Dr. Saul Wurman, and his now famous LATCH acronym (Location, Alphabetically, Time, Category, Hierarchy), humans only have five ways to organize information.  Location (maps) are the first part of the LATCH acronym.  There are a lot of good reasons spatial representation, (aka maps), are indispensable and will always be with us!  So harness their utility in your next presentation!