While oral and written communication is the most important communication in the workplace, there are also many advantages of visual communication. Of course, like all things, visual communication has its drawbacks as well, but if used properly, it can be an effective way to stress important concepts in the business world.
Types of Communication
If you ask most people to name different forms of communication, they'll be able to identify oral and written communication, but be hard pressed to name any others. Oral and written communication is known as verbal communication, the most commonly used in the workplace.
Non-verbal communication involves the use of the body and the voice, for example, gestures, body language and the speaker's tone of voice.
Visual communication takes advantage of visual aids. Stop lights, emojis, stock photos and billboards are all examples of visual communication.
Benefits of Visual Communication
- Quick: Try to describe how a job site looks and you'll find it takes a long time to accurately convey the message, but show someone a photo and they'll instantly understand.
- Simple: Trying to explain percentages or statistics can take a lot of time, but showing a graph can make things instantly understandable.
- Easy to remember: Scientists have shown that just adding a visual communication to a speech makes the presentation more memorable.
- More impactful: When a company wants to demonstrate their philanthropic efforts, a picture of a starving villager is far more powerful than a description.
- Universal: In our increasingly global economy, it is beneficial to be able to communicate to people from all backgrounds who speak other languages. A simple smiling emoji makes sense to people from all over the world, even those who are illiterate.
Disadvantages of Visual Communication in Business
- Oversimplification: An image can only convey so much information before it becomes bogged down and difficult to decipher. Oversimplifying can be dangerous when it comes to complex issues that need to be addressed with a deeper understanding of the matter.
- Limitations: Not everything can be expressed in images. Just try explaining a new company policy regarding overtime with a picture.
- Ambiguity: If you are trying to convey a message about your company's competition with a picture of a baby, it could be interpreted as "helpless," "small," "young," "whiney," or "naive." If you oversimplify what you're trying to say by saying it in a picture, your entire message could get lost.
- Cultural breakdowns: It's easy to forget that something that signifies one thing in one culture may not mean the same thing in other cultures. For example, a thumbs up might be a great thing in America, but might be offensive to people in China.
- Increased cost: Visual aids can cost more to print, especially if they are in a number of colors. Even if the image is only projected, the time to create a chart or graph can cost money in the form of man hours needed to create it.
- Inability to stand alone: In most cases, visual communication must be partnered with oral or written communication, whereas verbal communication can generally be used without any additional aids.
- Too distracting: Sometimes adding visual media can take away from the verbal communication being used if people focus on the visual.