The Power of Visuals

Have you picked up a textbook written in the last thirty years that is all text?  How about a tri-fold brochure that is all text?  Now think about your favorite brand name products for a few seconds.  You probably associated some of them almost immediately with their company logo.  And can you imagine a television commercial that is just exclusively bullet points?  Of course not.

The reason is that advertisers and textbook companies have long known the power of visuals when it comes to learning and memory retention.  The fact is, you can harness this same power easily in your own presentations and avoid putting your audiences’ brains through a mindless exercise of processing endless bullet statements.

That’s right!  With a little work and creativity, you can avoid producing the stereotypical “Death by PowerPoint” and actually create a presentation that produces accelerated learning and amplifies memory retention.  Let’s use two examples on a history lesson for the “The Cold War” below to illustrate this.

The Cold War.jpg


I put together the first slide in about an hour using just the basic shapes tool in Microsoft Powerpoint.  The second slide is the standard old boring bullet slide everyone is familiar with.  I’m covering the exact same material in both slides, but which one is better for learning and memory retention?

With the first slide visuals prompt me into a discussion starting with the Cold War as an historical geopolitical event, leading into the fact that the planet was divided into a bi-polar red vs. blue world, and finally that ICBMs were an enduring strategic component of the strategy of deterrence. 

The visuals further lend themselves to a discussion of those ICBM missiles, which then opens up an introduction to Cold War concepts like Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), counterforce and countervalue.  All this is done with absolute minimal text, no cheesy and/or irrelevant clipart and no bullet points!  (By the way, this is exactly how Steve Jobs presentations for Apple were designed.)

The second slide is just "blah."  I recommend ditching this minimal effort approach and I encourage you to try experimenting with this simple technique of building your presentations around visuals in lieu of endless bullet points.  You can start gradually and see how it works for you.

Oh, and one more thing.  Beyond the obvious benefits of faster learning and improved recall and retention for your audience, I’ve noticed my own public speaking has improved dramatically as my presentations now have a far more natural flow to them, instead of the rigid checklist execution that bullet points lock you into.  Try visuals for yourself and see the dramatic difference in your public speaking and your audience!