Data, almost by its definition, is boring.
Nobody likes numbers and people like discussing those numbers even less, which makes it difficult to sit down and actually give an effective presentation about whatever data sets you’re trying to dissect today. Right?
We’ve written at length in the past about how visual communication is key in terms of presenting data in much more engaging, effective ways. But by and large, graphs are a lot more powerful than a lot of people realize – particularly if you present them in a context that they’re not normally known for.
The presentation is one such context and when leveraged properly, graphs have an incredibly important role to play in terms of how – and when – you connect directly with your audience.
When Used Correctly, It’s All About Emphasis
To be clear, nobody wants to sit through a presentation that is graph after graph after graph – just like nobody wants to sit through a presentation that is nothing but walls of text. But when used sparingly and appropriately, one can actually play off the other in a very effective – and emotional – way.
Case in point – let’s say you’re giving a presentation about how your business’ user base has grown exponentially in a short amount of time. You would obviously want to start with a few slides that laid the groundwork for that idea, providing effective context for what people are about to see.
“Here’s what we did, here’s when we did it, here are the real tangible changes that we made to our approach to business” – that kind of thing.
Then, instead of another slide filled with bullet points, you hit them with a scatter plot. You’re conveying the exact same piece of information that you just primed your audience for, but you’re doing it in a way that most of them probably didn’t expect.
You shift gears in a visual, intimate way and you let the numbers speak for themselves. Those people have all the context they need to understand what they’re about to see and, when they finally see it, they’re absolutely blown away.
That’s because, in this type of situation, that graph is more than just a visualized data set. It’s an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, so to speak. It’s used to maximize impact and it draws people in.
Then, you can return to your more “standard” format for awhile before again including some other piece of visual material. When you create rules like this up front (essentially using your own presentation to say “here is what this format looks like and here is how I’m going to use it”), it becomes that much more effective when you strategically break those rules for a particular purpose.
It also gives you a chance to really sell the point you’re trying to make in a far more effective way. “I don’t have to talk for five minutes about what these numbers mean. It’s all right there in the graph. The numbers speak for themselves.”
It’s the visual equivalent of you giving a speech where you suddenly start shouting in the middle. People can’t help but take notice and they instantly want to learn more about what’s going on.
This is a large part of the reason why tools like Visme (which I founded) are devoted to more than just one piece of collateral. They let you create all of them – from presentations to Infographics to graphs and scatter plots and so much more.
But the true power that these materials bring to the table occurs not when they’re distributed separately, but when they become part of the exact same whole. Not only does the mixture of materials like this constantly keep your audience on their toes because they’re never sure quite what to expect next, but they also give you a chance to constantly engage all of your audience’s senses in a way that draws them in, not pushes them away.
The Lines are Blurred: Lean Into That
In the end, it’s important to remember that the lines that separate different types of collateral are getting blurrier and blurrier all the time. Even as recently as a few years ago, a blog post used to be exactly that – somewhere between 500 and 1000 words on a page with little else to show for it.
Now, think about the last time you looked at a blog that wasn’t filled with pictures, graphs, Infographics or other types of visual collateral. You’d probably have to think back pretty far.
These days, a presentation is more than just a presentation. It’s the sum total of charts, graphs, videos and other types of materials, all working together as one core unit. This is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon, to be sure – so it’s one that you’d better get used to.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience, and web app development.