There is nothing more dry and boring than reading text on a screen. Yet, how many presentations have we all sat through that have screens filled with lines of text.

The multi-media principle was developed by Richard Mayer. Mayer postulated that when words and graphics were used together, the effect on learning would be more powerful than when text or graphics alone were used independently. Text alone was shown to be a less effective way of connecting an audience with deeper levels of understanding. When we combine the two primary channels we use to process information – hearing and seeing – higher levels of learning, retention, and understanding will be achieved.

So how do we make our presentations more visual?

Three points to keep in mind when we select images for our next PowerPoint presentation.

  1. Relevancy – the image must be relevant to our content.
  2. Quality – the image must be of a quality that conveys our level of professionalism. Often, a mishmash of clipart has the opposite effect on our credibility.
  3. Blends – the image must blend with the rest of the content on the slide and the rest of your presentation.

Let’s see these principles in action.

Say we want to talk about getting a gift for our favorite teacher. We want to discuss why the apple is often associated with the perfect thing to give your teacher. Saying this really doesn’t sell to me why the apple is the compelling choice. So, let’s use the multi-media principle and create a visual aid to support this message.

Consider the following slide:

There is minimal text and we’ve found a really high quality stock image to support our key message. It’s a good start.

However, there are a couple of things I don’t like about this slide.

  1. Notice how the slide is using some sort of template and how the image doesn’t match or fit the style of the template.
  2. Notice how the image has just been dropped onto the slide with little consideration for the flow.

As such, I’d say this slide is unlikely to effectively tap into our visual learning pattern because it doesn’t achieve all three of our design principles. This image does not blend well.

Let’s try again and make a couple of changes.

  1. Let’s get rid of the distracting template and just use a plain white canvas. This is simple to do and gives a clean pallet for you to use to create your accompanying visual aid.
  2. Let’s frame the picture, which when placed next to the text, almost gives that feel that we are dropping the photograph onto the canvas to allow the audience to make their own connections between the words and the picture.

Take a look…

Much less distracting than the first example. Now I’m beginning to see and more importantly feel the message.

But can we do even better? I’ll let you be the judge…

In this example, I’ve stretch the picture over the entire canvas. This is great when you have a stock image with hard edges that doesn’t blend with the background.

I’ve then dropped a couple of text boxes on top the slide. I’ve darkened them but used some transparency so that the image beneath shows through.

Now I’m really feeling the message and I agree, the apple is a classic choice for every teacher!

For more ideas on how you can up your next PowerPoint presentation or to see where you can send your next apple, visit us and take our course Powerful PowerPoint Presentations.

This course provides useful and insightful tools and methods to increase the quality of a presentation! - Stephen Vigil (Investment Accounting Bureau Chief at State of New Mexico)

Very informative and interesting. I got a lot from this course that I can share with my co-workers. -Sharon Vincent (VP of Finance at MJC Electronics Corporation)