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#556: Draft Your Presentations Without Words

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 2, 2011
We all know how awful it is to hear a "Death by PowerPoint" presentation that is read off word for word. However, for consultants, who often have to provide a lot of conceptual information, dense text is a logical way to present findings and recommendations. What is a good way to resolve this conflict?

If concept is the communication objective and dense text is the enemy, then the solution may be easier than you think. Think creatively for a second. You want to make a conceptual point, have it be quickly understood and memorable, and not have the audience be distracted by reading your points from slide text. Try making each slide a single image and convey your concepts verbally.

Consultants are infamous (having spent days or weeks collecting and analyzing data) for wanting to provide all this "knowledge" to their client audience. There are a limited number of points an audience can or wants to remember. Pick an image that powerfully and memorably expresses the main point you want to make. If you are talking about finding a way to reach a new market with a pilot prior to a full scale campaign, consider a photograph of a rope bridge. If you want to show how the client's organization is ready to make changes, use the iconic "We Can Do It" poster from World War II showing how women were ready to take up industrial jobs.

Tip: Be creative and find just the right image (after securing the appropriate digital rights) to express the emotion and concept. The best images are the memorable ones, either because they are iconic (a familiar poster or person), unique and/or induce an emotional reaction (funny, sad or empathetic). Help your audience to mnemonically associate your concepts with your images.

P.S. Consider creating your presentation as a set only of images. If you can clarify your message with a set of 5 or 10 images, then you can (if you really think it helps) expand or supplement with word slides. You might be surprised how powerful a limited set of images can be to create a memorable and clear presentation.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  presentations 

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Julia P. Simmons says...
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Visual practitioners use pictures, words, clustering, and colors to reflect and communicate ideas from simple to complex. These graphic facilitation or recording skills can be learned or a visual practitioner can be employed. Examples of my work are at ; other visual practitioners can be found at
Thank you for your great daily tips. Julia Simmons
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Mark Haas CMC FIMC says...
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Thanks, Julia., You and your sister do some interesting work combining assessment, dialogue and intervention.
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