Issue #145 October 16, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Visual Slide Definition

This past week I created a new definition of a visual slide that captures where my position is different from some others. Here is my definition: “A visual slide is not the absence of text; it is the presence of a visual that encourages a conversation with the audience.” Now some people have stated that PowerPoint slides should never have text on them – visuals only. And we have all seen the paragraphs of unending text on too many slides. I think those are the two ends of a spectrum. While it is important to know where the extremes of the spectrum are, I am not sure living there is the best approach. I prefer something in the middle. In my definition, I deliberately chose to define a visual not by what is missing, but instead by what is present that is of greatest value. Let me explain. A visual is not of value simply because there is no text on the slide. The lack of text does not add to the benefit that the audience gets from the presentation. What does add value is a visual, usually accompanied by some explanatory text, that starts a conversation that enhances the understanding of the audience. The audience also sees the visual and draws their own conclusions that contribute to the discussion. A visual should not be added for decoration, but serve a clear purpose in delivering the message. While the epidemic of overloaded boring text slides is clearly gripping the business presentations that we see, the solution is not to swing to the other end of the spectrum, but to find that middle ground that will best serve our audiences. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this definition. If you are looking for ideas on how to create visuals instead of all text slides, check out my e-book “Transforming Text Slides into Visual Slides”, which gives you ideas of what visuals fit different situations and the best practices for each of those visuals. Here is the link to learn more: .