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How to Make Your Presentations More Engaging Through Visual Communication


Over 50% of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is dedicated to processing visual information, occupying more space than anything else we do.

In fact, according to bestselling author Dan Roam, using visuals to tell stories is one of the most powerful ways to get a message across. With drawings and images, you can clarify what’s in your own mind and confirm if someone sees it the same way, fostering mutual understanding and better connections. 

In the latest entry in our Building Forward webinar series, Roam shared his key insights on using simple yet dynamic visuals to clarify ideas, plans, and messages.

The art of an engaging presentation

When we see the sun shining outside, it helps us decide what to wear. We see traffic ahead on the road, so we decide to take another route. We make decisions based on visuals every day, so it stands to reason they can also help inform the way we work, learn, and present information.

When we build presentations, we have to keep in mind our audience’s visual system. If there isn’t anything interesting to look at, the human mind will likely check out in a few minutes. That’s why many presentations are not effective — there’s not enough to look at.

If you can attract people’s eyes, the mind will follow. By leveraging visuals, imagery, and real-time markup tools, you can draw people’s attention, create engaging presentations, and directly impact learning. This can help combat Zoom fatigue and engage people with your presentation right from the start.

Using a visual decoder

Think of your presentation as a story you’re trying to tell — one that visuals bring to life. You don’t have to be a talented artist to apply Roam’s visual methodology to how you tell that story. As Roam displayed via a mechanism he calls the “visual decoder,” simpler is usually better. A visual decoder is a four-part structure for presenting visual information — often in the form of folding a piece of paper into squares — designed to easily display a story. 

These are the four components:

Title: Write the title of your story out, keep it short and sweet, and make sure it’s direct and reflects what you’re trying to convey.

The who and what: Draw yourself, 2-3 people who are involved in your story, and a symbol or icon representing an object or thing that’s in your story.

Impact and outcome: Determine how you would measure the success and impact of your story. Draw a simple chart displaying what you’ll measure and what results you’ll aim to achieve over time. Think big — give yourself a target worth aiming for. 

Plan and timing: Think about how you plan to execute your story and draw a simple timeline or calendar of milestones showing the steps you’ll take to achieve your outcome. End with the date by which you’re going to achieve your objective.

Get more out of your meetings

Visual storytelling helps us communicate clearly in a complex world. Whether it’s a drawing, photo, diagram, or even animated text, take advantage of modern-day visualization tools and applications to make the most of your meetings. By conveying information in a more compelling way, you can increase engagement, productivity, and mutual understanding, resulting in better connections. 

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