Master Your Message Blog

Carefully Select Your Visuals for Impact

Here’s my second rule relating back to my cover article of earlier this week.

Visuals can sometimes detract from the emotional substance of your talk. For example, real emotional impact comes from the use of your audience’s imagination. The more concrete you make an image on a screen, the less it “belongs” to your audience. It’s your image, not theirs. They don’t “own” the image because they’re not emotionally connected to it.

In the 1930s, radio plays were today’s film blockbusters. They drew far greater audiences than any other format – “radio for the mind.” You would listen so intently as actors portrayed scenes so vividly written that you were completely drawn in. Sound effects helped make them “mind candy.” Talk about engaged!

You can do the same with words and images, but only if they’re carefully selected to involve the audience. Sometimes it’s more powerful to not use a picture, but rely on the audience imagination alone.

Ikea kitchen

Ikea kitchen

For example, if I put up this picture of a kitchen a told you a story about not being able to find the frying pan just when I was getting ready to cook eggs for the family, you’d be mildly engaged and might even think back to a similar situation. But more likely, you’d be captivated by how great this particular kitchen looks. I’ve likely lost you to the image.

However, if I didn’t put up a picture and asked you to imagine you’re in your kitchen … “It’s Monday morning and the family is getting ready for a really big day. You’ve decided to cook breakfast and have everything prepared”—I know you’re mentally right there in your kitchen—”and you can’t find the frying pan … anywhere!” It’s likely  you’re actually feeling the anxiety of not finding that darned frying pan!

Big difference. The picture is real and detracts from your own experience. Your mind is so powerful, it instantly conjures up the entire scene as if it was happening right now! And you become really engaged.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you attempt to integrate visual support with your message:

  1. Is this screen critical in helping me make my point? If not, it likely detracts.
  2. What level of emotional impact will this screen have on my audience? Is it a screen that’s necessary to my main point? Or is it just “interesting?” Interesting is clutter.
  3. Does this screen reinforce, or add clarity to my point? Remember, “Less is more.” If not, let it go.

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