Think Visually and Keep Your Audience Awake

At some point in our careers most of us will have to create digital slides for presentations. Whether or not you are a designer, your main goal should be to communicate your message to the audience without putting them to sleep. (Hint: reading off bullet points is not usually the best way to accomplish this.)
slide:ology, a new book by Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design (the firm that created the presentation for Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”) promises to help readers translate their ideas into visually interesting, effective presentations.

“A great slideshows is determined by the type of interaction a presenter has with their slides” declares Nancy Duarte. “If the presenter is addicted to reading bullet points, then everyone in the room suffers.”
“We can keep blaming software for the putrid output, but in reality we need to take responsibility,” adds Nancy. “As communicators, learning to create visual stories that connect with our audience is becoming imperative–especially in light of global competitive pressure.”
In a recent interview, Nancy offered these tips and tricks as a manifesto to keep handy whenever you’re preparing your next big presentation:

  1. Treat your audience as king: They didn’t come to your presentation to see you. They came to find out what you can do for them. Success means giving them a reason for taking their time, providing content that resonates, and ensuring it’s clear what they are to do.
  2. Spread ideas and move people: Creating great ideas is what we were born to do; getting people to feel like they have a stake in what you believe is the hard part. Communicate your ideas with strong visual grammar to engage all their senses and they will adopt the ideas as their own.
  3. Help them see what you’re saying: Epiphanies and profoundly moving experiences come from moments of clarity. Think like a designer and guide your audience through ideas in a way that helps, not hinders, their comprehension. Appeal not only to their verbal senses, but to their visual senses as well.
  4. Practice design, not decoration: Orchestrating the aesthetic experience through well-known but oft-neglected design practices often transforms audiences into evangelists. Don’t just make pretty talking points. Instead display information in a way that makes complex information clear.
  5. Cultivate healthy relationships: A meaningful relationship between you, your slides, and your audience will connect people with content. Display information in the best way possible for comprehension rather than focusing on what you need as a visual crutch. Content carriers connect with people.

Laura Leites, Assistant Editor,