Identify the best visual by looking for clues in the words you use

One of the biggest obstacles I hear to creating visuals instead of text on PowerPoint slides is that people don’t know what visual to create for the point they are making.  They think that you need a degree in graphics or need to be a really creative person to come up with the appropriate graphic for different situations.  I disagree.  I have no formal graphics or design background.  My degrees are in Chemical Engineering and an MBA.  So I had to figure out a way that I could create visuals without using a formal creative design process.

What I figured out is that we can find clues to the appropriate visual by looking at the words we use.  This became the second step of my five-step KWICK method that is detailed in my book, The Visual Slide Revolution.  I suggest you look at the words in your slide headline, the words that are currently on your text slide (that you are replacing with a visual), and the words you use to describe the point that you are making.  The words or phrases will give you all the clues you need.  No degree required.  Anyone can do it.  Let’s look at some examples.

Example #1: The product features slide
“The ABC widget can be used in 14 different applications, while competing widgets can only be used in 5 or 6 situations.” The key word to listen for is “while”.  This indicates comparison and suggests that a visual such as a diagram of photos showing the number and type of applications would show both numeric advantage and scope advantage.

Example #2: The financial update slide
Typically, these slides include imported Excel tables of numbers and the presenter talks about how the current results indicate a potential trend in the marketplace or in operations.  The key word here is “trend”.  The numbers may show a trend to the trained person, but most audiences would prefer to see a graph that shows the direction and magnitude of the trend so they can decide whether it is important or not.

By looking for clues in the words or phrases that explain the point we are making, a visual will become clear almost every time.  When you are struggling to find the right visual in your next presentation, go back to how the point is explained.  The words and phrases will usually provide all the clues you need.  If you are looking for a list of words and phrases and the clues they suggest, my book, The Visual Slide Revolution, has a table of thirty-eight words and phrases to stimulate your thinking.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 3.5 million times and liked over 14,000 times on YouTube.