|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 119||Published 2003-04-22|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
Presentations with visual support, typically running under PowerPoint, have become ubiquitous. All of us have been at some time in need of making one of them and they are, increasingly, a part of our daily work.
Did I said with visual support? Surprisingly a good deal of the presentations we have to suffer are basically long strings of sentences and phrases that the presenter just recites, maybe with some collateral explanation. The use of graphics, although increasing, is rather scarce. (see also issue number 73 on Information Graphics)
Why use graphics? If you have already seen some boring presentations where all the slides are textual, you already know: among other things, there’s no way to differentiate one from another in our minds.
Once upon a time we had to show the ideas for the future of the R+D dept. We made a slide with a sky-blue background with white clouds floating, each one with an idea. For a long time after many people still remembered the “ideas in the sky”.
Basically there are two types of graphic material to consider
The most unknown is maybe the first one, since there are very few software programs that give graphical support to ideas. The second one has become much more popular, since every spreadsheet provides ways to present graphically quantitative data.
I’ve been actively searching for information about the best way to represent ideas and concepts graphically with discouraging results. There is very little literature on the topic.
Nevertheless it’s possibly the most powerful way of expression in a presentation. Gene Zelazny, in his book “Say it with charts”* divides these visual elements into two groups:
Zelazny gathers almost 50 pages of symbols and figures that express ideas, but they aren’t that much different from what you can find in the Clip Art that comes with PowerPoint or the images you can find in Google.
The important (and difficult) thing is how to convert ideas into drawings, diagrams or visual metaphors showing the concept. For this there aren’t many established rules.
What I propose to you is an exercise.
I think you will probably find that:
Switching to visual presentations requires considerable effort, specially when the graphics have to been mastered by ourselves. Nevertheless the impact and improvement in the transmission of ideas is really noticeable and can make the difference between delivering the message or showering the audience with difficult to assimilate words.
* Gene Zelazny, “Say it with charts” fourth edition ISBN 0-07-136997-X McGraw Hill
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