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What does a successful presentation accomplish? Well, it must convey accurate, relevant information to a given audience. But getting in front of a group of people and talking at them isn’t enough. Viewers must also be able to pay attention well enough to understand and retain the information at hand. In other words, presentations must be engaging.

This is precisely why visual aids are so important in presentations. Here’s a closer look at some of the top advantages of effective visual aids.

Visuals Help People Retain Information

By the time you take the stage to deliver a presentation, you’ve already invested hours into researching, creating and rehearsing it. Needless to say, you want the information you’re presenting to stick in viewers’ minds long after it ends. This is a key area in which visuals can make a huge difference in the short- and long-term outcomes of your presentation.

According to Study.com, one study found that people who heard a presentation retained just 10 percent of the information three days later; people who heard and saw visual information remembered 65 percent.

Visuals Break Down Complex Ideas

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression that “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” right? Some concepts simply lend themselves to visuals better than to words alone. Visuals help presenters cut to the chase by concisely conveying even complex information in a digestible format—and they spare presenters the hassle of grasping for words to describe complicated information.

Here are just a handful of visual formats to consider when you’re considering how to communicate complex ideas to an audience:

  • Maps
  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Slides
  • Video clips
  • Photographs
  • Diagrams
  • Props

The key here is matching the information you’re trying to convey with the medium that best fits. You want visuals to augment what you’re saying, not confuse or distract people from your main points.

Visuals Increase Audience Interest

Even the most patient of humans has a finite attention span that will, at some point, run out. Many people began to disengage with presentations around the 20-minute mark, depending on the content matter and communication style of the speaker. The last thing you want to see from the front of the room is a sea of vacant expressions—let alone glazed eyes, texting thumbs and fidgeting bodies.

It turns out visuals serve as an excellent way to re-engage viewers, especially interactive visuals embedded into a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation. There are many forms of picture polls presenters can use to directly involve audience members via their mobile devices. Asking people to actively participate is an excellent wake-up call, plus it tends to yield interesting feedback.

Using a picture poll, a professor could ask students in a large lecture hall to answer a course-related multiple-choice question based on an image. A keynote speaker at a conference could kick things off with an interactive icebreaker question, such as asking people to drop a pin on the map corresponding to where they live. A team leader could even ask employees at an all-hands meeting to contribute to an emoji-based word cloud.

Most People Are Visual Learners

It’s a generally accepted fact that more than half of people are visual learners—as opposed to auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic. A presentation without visuals will automatically fail to take advantage of this majority preference.

Why are visuals so important in presentations? They generate interest, help make dense information digestible and help people retain information longer. Since these tie in so closely to the hallmarks of a successful presentation, it behooves speakers to incorporate fitting visual aids into their overall presentation.

Why Visual Aids Are Important