If you ask most people to name different forms of communication in the workplace, they'll be able to identify oral and written communication, but may be hard pressed to name any others. Oral and written communication, known as verbal communication, is the most commonly used in the workplace. Visual communication takes advantage of visual aids. Stop lights, emojis, stock photos and billboards are all examples of visual communication. Used properly, it can be an effective way to drive important concepts home in the business world, but there are some disadvantages.
Visual Media Advantages: It's Immediate
Try to describe to a graphic designer how you want your job site to look, and you'll find it takes a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to accurately convey the message. Show her a photo, however, and she'll instantly understand.
Visual Media Advantages: It's Simple and Easy to Remember
Trying to explain percentages or statistics can take a lot of time, but showing a graph can make things instantly understandable. When a company wants to demonstrate its philanthropic efforts, for example, a picture of a starving villager is far more powerful than a description. Similarly, people find it much easier to understand data that's presented as a pie chart than written in table form. Scientists have shown that just adding a visual communication to a speech makes the presentation more memorable.
Visual Media Advantages: It's 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.
Visual Media Disadvantages: Can't Handle Complex Data
Not everything can be expressed in images – just try explaining a new company policy regarding overtime with a picture. 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.
Visual Media Disadvantages: It's Culturally Ambiguous
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," "whiny," or "naive." If you oversimplify what you're trying to say by saying it in a picture, your entire message could get lost. It's also 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.
Visual Media Disadvantages: Increased Costs
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.
Visual Media Disadvantages: Too Distracting
Sometimes adding visual media can take away from the verbal communication being used if people focus on the visual. In most cases, visual communication must be partnered with oral or written communication, whereas verbal communication can generally be used without any additional aids.