Images are very powerful communication tools, but when it comes to presenting information, we often completely forget that and go right ahead with filling our slides with loads of text.
In the process we often bury the message, leaving us with a lackluster and unengaging presentation which our audience instantly forgets.
Sociologist and Photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940) said: “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera”.
We are now living in the age of the ADD generation. Many people simply don’t read deeply anymore, instead, we skim articles in between the many other things constantly vying for our attention, such as mobile phones and tablets.
It’s almost impossible to get people to turn off their phones during meetings and presentations, so we find ourselves competing for attention. Filling our slides with text simply doesn’t cut it anymore; hey, you only get 140 characters for a tweet! We need to find a better way to convey important information.
Information Graphics, or Infographics, are visual representations of information or data used to present complex information succinctly.
They use graphics to assist understanding by taking advantage of our ability to see patterns and trends that can otherwise be difficult to perceive.
Text-heavy slides fail to keep our audience interested. When the same information is presented visually, however, your slides become more immediate and engaging.
PowerPoint as a design tool
We don’t all have access to graphic design software, but with access to the internet and PowerPoint installed, we can still make simple eye-catching graphics.
The following PowerPoint tools can assist in creating infographics:
- Text Boxes
To create the slide above, I started in PowerPoint and used the layout to set up a blank slide. This layout gives me room to add in my own graphics and adjust the spacing without any of the usual placeholders to hinder me. I also went to the View ribbon to turn on Gridlines and Guides to help me align objects on the slide.
All of the graphics I used were created by going to the Insert ribbon and choosing Shapes. The trick is to set up one shape and then duplicate it (Ctrl-D), resizing the new shape if required.
To make the Exercise Preferences Infographic
Now that I had 5 hearts, I selected them all and from the Format ribbon under the Drawing Tools contextual tab, I clicked the Align button and selected Align Top, then Distribute Horizontally.
This gave me a neat row of hearts which I again duplicated to create another 3 rows. I used the alignment tools to tidy everything up and changed the last 3 hearts to green to differentiate them.
I added a couple of horizontal lines from Shapes and thickened them up a bit by going to Shape Outline and adjusting the Weight.
I added a textbox above the line and typed the heading, then formatted it using standard formatting options from the Home tab.
I added another textbox for the text between the lines, selecting the key facts and increasing the font size, using the same color I applied to the hearts. This creates a visual relationship between the text and graphical elements, strengthening the link between the two.
Once the graphic is adjusted to my requirements, I like to group it and save it as a picture. This is not critical, but it makes things easier if you want to reuse the graphic. To do this, select all of the items in the image, then choose Format, Group from the Drawing Tools contextual tab. Right-click on the group and choose Save as Picture. This will save as .png image which can then be used elsewhere.
To make the Office Product Usage Infographic
For the bubbles, I started by copying the lines and text boxes from the first image. Then I simply used the Shapes again to create a circle. Tip – to ensure a perfect circle hold the Shift key while drawing. Once I had the circle I used Ctrl-D to make more copies and then resized as required.
I clicked on each circle and typed the text I wanted, reducing the font size for the smaller circles. I also used the Arrange buttons to Send Backward or Bring Forward as necessary.
I wanted to match the colors of the circles precisely to the Office applications they referred to, so I used the Eyedropper tool to do this. I first went online and found the logos for each of the applications, e.g. Excel, clicked on the logo with the Eyedropper tool to take a sample of the color, and then clicked on the appropriate circle to apply the color. This way I was again able to create a visual tie into the application. (Note: – the Eyedropper tool is only available if you are using Office 2013 – if you use an older version you can just eyeball the colors)
To Make the BYOD Support Infographic
The BYOD image was an interesting one. I could have inserted a chart to do this but I would then need to clean up all of the extra chart elements that would typically appear. Because I wanted to keep it very clean and simple, I instead created the image with Shapes once again, this time using the Pie shape.
This particular shape has a couple of yellow diamonds attached that you can drag to adjust the circumference of the pie. In this case, I dragged around to 74%. Then, I copied it once again and moved the copy directly in front of the first shape, dragged it to fill the gap and changed the color to show the difference.
After entering the text I once again enlarged the keyword and applied the same color as the pie to create and emphasise the visual tie-in.
Keep it clean and clear
Note that I placed 4 images on this slide for illustration purposes. For real-world presentations I would use 1 or 2 of these images per slide and make them much larger so my audience could see them clearly; I hate it when a presenter begins with the words “I know you probably can’t read this but…”!
By creating clear, concise infographics like these, you can begin to build more compelling presentations that engage your audience. If you want to use lots of text then you should send them a document instead, and dispense with the presentation.
You don’t need to be an artist to create great infographics, though it may take some practice and imagination. Give it a try.