A QR code, when scanned, is a purposeful use of visual communication because it simply accesses further information. Therefore, its function is evident. I often use them in a slide deck for online presentations.
However, using text, photographs, and infographics for speaking engagements is one of contentious discussion. We have all seen and heard of “Death by PowerPoint.” I have seen many slideshows that have left me under or overwhelmed, but I still like slides in online presentations because I need continual visual stimulus. It can be difficult for me to focus when someone is talking alone.
I started as an artist and graphic designer, so I quickly read the visuals on a screen. I find that slides, when used well, punctuate a talk, and keep me alert. In the same way, I know that journalists love data visualisation to break up the webpage space to keep people interested as their readers are increasingly online.
I struggled during my A-Levels, not knowing what to do when I left, so I joined the local College and found myself on a graphic design degree in Newport in Gwent. That was where I first learned about what we call the language of visual communication, and the things I studied have remained with me ever since.
Semiotics is the study of symbols and how we understand what we see. For example, a cup of coffee is a beverage, yet we also associate it with alertness, creativity, and comfort.
Semantics is the study of the meaning and the way we understand words, signs, and sentence structure. That cup of coffee means something completely different when I say, “Let’s grab a coffee” rather than “Would you like to come up for coffee?” to someone you are attracted to.
I feel that presentation slides can help you digest information when they are done well for people like me. I believe that the message is the core of a speech, not the speaker.
On Zoom we are looking at each other online through a screen where complimentary imagery can say 1000 words and keep us engaged. We are the reporters of our own knowledge and expertise. This is even more obvious when I use Zoom as I appear in the bottom right, inside the presentation. I have also recently downloaded a piece of software called OBS which will help me integrate graphics professionally, and will connect with Zoom. I want to deliver information in a way that I would like to receive it.
Let’s take this example of Dietrich’s PESO model, which I am learning about in my CIPR Professional PR Diploma.
Someone took the time to create a snapshot of thought of something quite complex. I have then interpreted it as I understand it. I believe that infographics need to let us think for ourselves in this way making a branded presentation online highly effective. Like many people, I am a creative thinker, so photographs, visual concepts, the pace of the slides, bullet-pointed text and anything that helps me understand information is a benefit. This would make an overcomplicated slide, so I risk people trying to read the slide or screenshotting it rather than listening to what I say. I think delivering my talks in the same way I design my social media posts. An image for impact and text to explain. In this case, it would be the below image used for the slide deck and my words to complement it to explain each section. The arrows lead to intrigue, and it gives me the opportunity to connect with my audience. I guess I didn’t need all that text?
As a Media Officer working in Communications for ten years for a charity, I worked with people who have communication needs. Some needed to use what we call Easy Read documents. Easy Read is a form of accessible information using short, simple sentences alongside pictures. It aims to make written information easier to understand. Talking alone can be very much like reading and becomes challenging when there are complex concepts to grasp. When I create my slide decks, I produce a transcript to read, which uses the same process as Easy Read. I use this to practise my talks. I create a table and drop JPEGS of the slides down to the left and bullet points as reminders on the right. The bullet points remind me of what I might forget to say because my mind tends to meander. Eventually, the image reminds you of the content of the text as you practise.
A good speech depends on the audience’s needs, and there are many ways of communicating, not just visual. I feel strongly about visuals because graphic design is one of my specialities as a PR and Design Consultant. Combining my understanding of visual language with persuasive writing helps me tell stories by building pictures in my readers’ minds. Every word I obsess over to create a mental picture. The use of language in this way (or Semantics) is an ever-evolving use of the lexicon of words. I approach PR through a graphic design and marketing lens instead of as a journalist or media graduate. My viewpoint is from a visual communication perspective, including images and symbolism (or Semiotics). I feel that as the world changes, we begin to adapt to it. Change is necessary and online presentations are increasingly common as the world maximises the potential of technology. Online technology has freed us to get creative with our newfound space.
Online I have seen some ingenious webinars. I have witnessed thought leaders working with the simplicity of flip charts. I have been amazed at the effects of animation and the extent of interactive opportunities. As a visual person, I need to consider and contemplate images online to feel that I am making a choice about what I am understanding. I like to switch off the speaker and work things out for myself. When networking and I give a strong presentation, that is when I have made sales. It has also helped me create connections with other people who feel similarly. I imagine it like going to a gallery and sharing your favourite pieces of art with like-minded people. I hope you appreciate the visual and remember creatives like me in the audience when you present online.