The Importance of Visual Communication

Have you noticed the trend toward more and more visual communication? Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, will tell you about an informal year-long experiment where she pitted words against pictures.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #303

Visual communication is becoming more and more important everyday.  As you may know, for some time now, the trend for presentation slides has been to eliminate most, if not all, of the words and simply focus on bold, imaginative, engaging images. In the past couple years, I also noticed social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are adding more and more visual elements. (Both added the possibility of a large header profile photo and both enhanced the ability to add video, images, and presentations directly into the profile or stream.)

There’s also been a significant increase in subscribers to photo and video-dedicated social media like YouTube, SlideShare, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, and Snapchat.  I have been experimenting with new visual communication software that has hit the marketplace, and I wanted to share with you a little informal experiment that I ran.  

New Products Bring Results

Almost a year ago, I decided to try out Haiku Deck for the first time.  I don’t remember what initially brought it to my attention, but it claimed to be a quick way to create a visually stunning slide deck. That night I decided to create a ten-slide deck based on my most popular podcast episode, How to Introduce Yourself. I gave the new slide deck a clever name, “Taking the Hell Out of Hello,” and chose an unusual, quirky image for the title slide. The deck didn’t get much attention on the Haiku Deck platform itself, but then I noticed you can easily post Haiku decks to SlideShare.  So, I did that—just to check out that feature of the software. It was easy and seamless. Then, almost immediately the deck started getting traction and attention on SlideShare, and, in fact, it was even featured on the home page for a few days. 

I wanted to see if it was a one-off, so I created another one, again based on a popular episode—this time about storytelling. I titled this one, “Are You Another Boring Storyteller?” Again, I picked a quirky image for the slide title page. And once again, the same thing happened: the slide deck got featured and quickly gained traction. So, I decided to post these on my website—I put them in the sidebar on a few popular pages. I wanted to see what would happen over the course of a year. Recently, I received an email from SlideShare telling me that these two slide decks are in the top 10% of their most popular slide shows!

So, then I wondered, "Hmmm...really? How popular are they? Are these slides decks more popular than the original podcasts on which they were based?" So, I asked our talented QDT intern Rebecca to investigate for me. The results? For the self-introductions content, the SlideShare version has earned more than 600,000 views, which is more than four times the number of podcast downloads. The second, newer podcast on storytelling, posted a year or so after the other one, also earned more than 600,000 views in its slideshow format, which is more than twelve times the number of downloads. That's a BIG difference!

Why Does It Work?

What does this tell us about communication? First, people really like visual presentations! Second, people really like short presentations!  Although QDT episodes are already short (about 6-9 minutes), the slides decks can be consumed in one-two minutes. Undoubtedly, a short visual presentation will encourage some people to go on to read or research more, but many people will not. That’s OK. You’ve still communicated key ideas with those people. You’ve planted a seed. And it may grow, and they may come back for more.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.