We’ve all seen those presentations. You know the ones — way too much text, barely decipherable charts, corny clip art. But that’s not how you capture your audience’s attention, especially in a virtual-first world where people can easily find something else to focus on.
In a recent webinar, Jole Simmons — the Senior Art Director at Workday, as well as a LinkedIn Learning instructor and longtime presentation designer — explained the importance of visual storytelling with the help of Prezi (he actually imported an existing PowerPoint presentation into Prezi Video for a virtual audience). Even something normally full of text and slides can be turned into something compelling and memorable.
Check out his on-demand webinar, or read on to get some of his top tips for creating visual stories.
Understanding the elements of a good story
Before you can tell a story, it’s important to know what parts make up a good one. Jole breaks down the elements you need (particularly in the context of giving a presentation) to craft your story:
- Setting. This is where the story is being told, or the broader context of your content. Make sure you establish what you’ll be focusing on early to set the stage for your audience.
- Characters. In other words, your audience. Who are you talking to? Is your content catered to them?
- Conflict. This seems counter-intuitive, especially if you’re presenting on something that is mostly positive, but having some kind of conflict makes your story memorable. For example, even if you have positive news to share, you can frame the story around some of the challenges you had to overcome first.
- Resolution. The key thing here is to not just tie a happy bow on your story and leave it at that. Instead, you should also provide an action item for your audience to take after they leave your presentation.
The next time you create a presentation, make sure you create it with these story elements in mind. If you do this from the get-go, you’ll ensure you have a more cohesive narrative in the final product.
What the best presentations should do
Of course, even with a story in mind, you need to make sure your presentation can support and enhance that story. Jole shares what the best presentations need to do to keep an audience’s attention:
- Inform. This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. You need to make sure you’re delivering value to your audience — otherwise, why should they give you their precious time and attention?
- Be memorable. This goes back to the slides full of text or dense charts — all of that information will vanish the second your presentation ends. Being visual goes a long way in getting your audience to remember what you’re saying.
- Entertain. Speaking of being memorable, a great way to do that is by being entertaining. You definitely don’t need to be cramming your presentation full of jokes (remember: know your audience/characters!), but some light levity and authenticity can do wonders for engagement.
- Support. Ultimately, you’re the speaker, not your presentation. Your content should be there to support and complement your message, so try not to share your screen and cover your face if you can help it (which is where a tool like Prezi Video can help), and don’t let boring slides take the wind out of what you want to say.
Bringing visual storytelling to your presentations
Once you have all the necessary elements for a great story and presentation, it’s time to put it all together. Jole explains that it’s not enough to just slap some images in there — you need to merge your visuals and story together to create the biggest impact.
In particular, he recommends less text per slide, more (high-quality) images, and moving visuals such as videos, GIFs, and animations. He also warns against overusing things like funny GIFs. Again, the visuals (and your presentation as a whole) are there to support you vs. overshadow you.
By applying these tips, you can take a presentation that looks like this:
Into something that looks like this:
If you want to see Jole go even more in-depth on how he transformed a fairly unassuming slide deck into a more visually impactful story, watch his on-demand webinar. You can also see how other people have used visual storytelling to great effect in the Prezi Presentation Gallery.