Don’t be lazy with your visuals: get creative and get them right!

Creative visuals are powerful and can stimulate feelings, memories and past learning. By “visuals” I mean any images you can use in a presentation, such as photos, icons, graphs or illustrations. These highly valuable communication tools can be very effective…but only if they fit with the core message!

In my last blog post I talked about the importance of engaging the visual channel. Here I’d like focus on the importance of using visuals which actively support your message. It’s not enough to use striking images: they have to communicate the right message to your audience.

If you use an irrelevant or inappropriate visual, this will only distract and confuse – doing more harm than good. Rather than adding depth and clarity, the wrong visual could send your audience wandering off on a completely unrelated trains of thought. A great example of this is a slide we had recently with the statement “use these services as a vehicle for change” alongside a racing car.

This slide is about young offenders and how their relationship with a probation officer can be a “vehicle for change”. You don’t need to be a communications expert to know that the image of a “vehicle” doesn’t do anything to clarify or reinforce the actual message though.

In feedback, audience members noted that this visual was confusing and “off message”. One woman even admitted that the visual of the sports car led her to think about Formula 1 car racing and an ex-boyfriend who was an F1 enthusiast…not exactly what the presenter had in mind.

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The game “Pictionary” is all about creating this link between a concept and a visual image. You won’t win at Pictionary unless your visuals speak your message clearly: a beautifully drawn picture which no-one understands isn’t going to score you any points! To win at Pictionary, you have to think creatively and draw something which your team mates will immediately understand, and which leads them to say the exact word or expression you have in your mind.

The type of creative thinking that Pictionary requires is exactly what you need in order to design visually powerful presentations. So get out the egg-timer and pencils if necessary, and leave the sleek but meaningless visuals behind.

Always ask yourself “will this visual help my audience to understand?” Unless the answer is a resounding “Yes!” you need to find an alternative. Don’t be lazy with your creative visuals: get inspired and get them right!

Can flexible working increase productivity?

The Telegraph recently ran an article about more British workers being given the right to request flexible working hours – read article here.

Hallelujah we say to that!

Why? Because the current office environment – typically getting to the office at 9am, staying til 5.30pm, working in an open-plan office, and spending most of the day sitting still – is about the least productive environment we could possibly create. That’s according to scientific research…

If you’ve not heard of him, check out Dr John Medina. He’s a molecular biologist who’s written the excellent Brain Rules – a book that explains, in a fun and easy to read way, how the brain sciences influence the way we work. A “brain rule” is what scientists know for sure about how our brains work – so it’s well worth taking note of. You can see a summary on the Brain Rules website here http://www.brainrules.net.

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One thing Dr Medina explains is that everyone’s brains are wired differently – no two brains are wired the same, not even identical twins. And that means everyone works differently too, with each of us functioning better at different times of the day. To put very simply, a “morning” person will be more productive in the morning, and a “night” person more productive at night (and probably pretty groggy and unproductive at certain times of the day) – and that’s all there is to it, our brains are wired in that way and we can’t fight against it!

With that in mind, what if everyone could set their own hours of work? Granted most businesses can’t offer complete flexibility due to certain commitments; but imagine how far even a little flexibility could go. If people could choose to work at the times their brains are more alert and active, their productivity would no doubt increase. This can only be good for business!

At Presented, we try to offer as much flexibility as we can to staff. Working remotely helps us do this; some of our staff work better at home, some in libraries etc – who are we to argue? So long as we’re getting the best out of our staff they could work in a pig sty for all we care (so long as they didn’t come to visit us that same day!)

There are a whole load of other reasons why the current typical office environment is bad for business, and that’s something we may touch on in another post…

But for now, we say hear hear to flexible hours and making Britain more productive!