Three Simple Ideas for Presentation Visuals

by
Kristian Olson

How many presentations have you created or seen that follow the same text-heavy, canned stock photo, boring graph routine. It’s page after page of the same thing that makes audiences want to snooze. Powerful visuals, on the other hand, make audiences sit up and take notice.

Creating solid visuals in your presentations isn’t impossible. Precisely write down what you’re trying to inform your audience of. Then use what you’ve written in combination with the following three ideas to build visually compelling slides.

Idea #1 : Identify Key Objects

Which physical objects within your data and content can tell a visual story? Highlight all the nouns and necessary accompanying adjectives, in your outline or draft, then determine which ones would work well as visuals that further your message. If your slide’s main point is about cars and you have a sub-point about bicycles, use the car graphic first, add a smaller bicycle graphic if you need to. We’re talking icons, illustrations and photos.

  • People: Any mention of people, groups of people, job roles, or companies, could be represented by a photos, silhouettes, icons, or other graphics.
  • Objects: Easily recognizable things like a computers, phones, cars, buildings, or animals. This group can also include a product or service like wi-fi, coffee, networking, etc.
  • Content that includes figures, percentages, dates, or costs that represent measurable quantities. Use bold, graphic type to bring attention to these numbers.

Idea #2 : Declare Your Point Visually.

Whether you are informing or persuading, you can do both with the right visuals. Choose graphics that declare the point—for example that 50% of consumers use coupons—then add brief sub-points if necessary and elaborate on your ideas in your script or voiceover.

In figure 1.1 we are declaring the main point of this slide visually, by using the graphic with half the people holding coupons and the other half not. The different colors help to quickly show viewers that the number is 50%. We are also treating that stat as a key object and using a large, bold font to bring attention to it.

Idea #3 : Nail Your Main Idea with a Metaphor

Most likely, anything you’re attempting to visualize in your presentation includes a considerable amount of detailed content. It’s up to you to figure out its structure. A great way to encapsulate and simplify the main thrust of your presentation (and conceptually contain all that detailed content) is to come up with a metaphor that sums it up. Then come up with a visual to match.

Good metaphors create imagery that the audience can identify with and relate to, helping them to gain an immediate understanding of something that might be complicated or complex.  A metaphor is usually stronger when it’s easy to understand. Keep it simple. Try using one or two graphics of people, animals or objects that are creating some kind of situation or interaction. Add another visual that helps define that situation or interaction. This could be something that defines the setting like the simple outline of a house. Or maybe it helps define an action, so you add in a hammer or other tool. You’ll have to ponder how to best illustrate the metaphor. Be patient, this can take time.

Pro Tip:
Metaphors can sometimes come across as cheesey or overly playful for some audiences. They are better used when conveying larger concepts to broad groups. Using them for boardroom meetings or financial presentations may not be the right move.


Compelling visuals aren’t something you just pick out of the photo bank and plug in where there’s white space. Visuals need to mean something to your main ideas and you audience. Be strategic with your visuals, considering how to express a variety of ideas. If you’d like some pointers on how to do this, keep reading our blog. And, if you’d like presentations completely off your plate, get in touch with us today.

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