One of the reasons that presenters don’t use visuals instead of text is because they don’t know what visual to use to explain the point they are making. Business professionals tell me all the time that they aren’t graphic artists or designers, so how can they come up with a visual? In my book "The Visual Slide Revolution", I list 38 words or phrases and the clues they give as to what visual will work as a good replacement for all the text. Recently, I came up with an additional insight.
I was preparing a workshop for a client and I realized how powerful the following phrase can be when thinking about visuals. We often use this phrase, "You know, it's just like ..." during conversations when we are trying to explain a concept, idea, process, object, or pretty much anything that the other person is not familiar with. We use this phrase to frame the new item in a way that is easy to understand for the listener.
Let me break this phrase down into two parts to show the power it has. First, the start of the phrase "You know." By starting with these words, we put the listener on notice that we are about to explain something in a way that is familiar to them. Immediately they are put at ease knowing that the coming explanation will be easy to understand because it is coming from a perspective of familiarity. The second part of the phase, "it’s just like", lets them know that we are going to create a word picture analogy. This allows them to organize the coming information in a familiar way since it is similar to something they already know.
Here’s how this phrase can help you create visuals in your presentations. Whenever you are stuck wondering what visual would be better than paragraphs of text, place yourself in the position of explaining the idea to someone who has no background with what you are talking about. Start by saying, "You know, it’s just like …" and finish that sentence. Capture the word picture you just painted either by writing it out or recording yourself on your computer or cell phone. Turn that word picture into an actual visual on your slide.
I never suggest that we can eliminate all text from our presentations, that’s not the objective. Research shows that visuals are more powerful than text alone, so use the phrase, "You know, it’s just like …" to develop visuals for your slides that will make your presentation more effective.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 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 less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.