Presentations need a certain amount of imagery and graphics to be interesting and to keep the audience's attention. Overuse or misuse of graphics in a presentation can appear unprofessional or be distracting for recipients, but using the right type of graphic for the topic being discussed enhances the audience's understanding and retention of information. An article in the digital magazine "Inf@Vis!" notes that images are much easier to remember than text, and the change between slides becomes much more defined for viewers, making the topics being discussed more defined for them, as well.
Graphs and charts have always been a way to simplify numeric or quantitative data. Pie charts and bar charts make comparisons between amounts, while line graphs show upward or downward trends. Using a simple graph can convey information much more easily than text or numbers shown in a table, and applications such as Microsoft Word or Excel can make producing graphs and charts for presentations easy.
Graphics can convey ideas as well as data, achieving visual metaphors for some ideas -- for example, using imagery such as green shoots for new growth and light bulbs for ideas. Simple geometric shapes work in the same way, with arrows pointing out direction and movement, and checkmarks showing agreement or correctness. Color is part of people's conceptual imagery, so it is better to use green for positive ideas and red for errors or dangers to ensure ease of comprehension.
Pictures are easy to include in presentations, but some care should be taken over what pictures are used and when. Many cartoon-style clip art images are available, but these often can appear informal and unprofessional, especially if they are overused. Using digital photographs is a more formal approach to showing images of items, buildings or people, but the image or action taking place in the photos must be large enough for people at the back of the room to see. Using a thumbnail in the corner of a slide is less effective and shows no detail.
Conceptual charts, such as flow charts and organizational structure charts, use a mixture of text, images and geometric shapes, such as arrows, to convey their meaning. They can be very complex and need to be kept as simple and large as possible to ensure the audience can easily take in the details and see them from all areas of the room.
Louise Jones has been a technical writer since 2006 and is the director of a technical writing company, providing literature for U.K. construction firms such as MITIE and Balfour Beatty. Her work also appears on various websites, focusing on business and technical articles. Jones has a postgraduate certificate in education and has been trained in information technology. She studied English at Cambridge University.