Why Visuals Are So Important for Your Presentation

The visuals that you show during your presentation might be just as important as what you say. Or even more important than what you say.

In fact, Robert E. Horn, of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Language and Information says, “When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence … visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”

Today we are going to look at 5 statistics about visual aids. These come from scientific studies and can remind us to get serious about creating a killer slide deck and developing a powerful multimedia presentation.

1. About 83% of what we learn comes from our sense of sight.

In his book Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom, Larry Cuban says that 1% of what we learn comes from our sense of taste and 1.5% comes from our sense of touch. Approximately 3.5 comes from our sense of smell and around 11% comes from our sense of hearing. That means a whopping majority, 83%, comes from visual information. Contrast that with how much of presentations are usually verbal-auditory. It’s time to show, not tell.

2. Our vision accounts for about 66% of our brain activity.

Neuroanatomist R.S. Fixot published research which proved that “when our eyes open, our vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity of the brain—a full 2 billion of the 3 billion firings per second.” So our brains are spending the majority of their energy processing the information we are taking in through our eyes. That’s why presentation graphics, slide decks, and nonverbal communication like gestures are so important.

3. Presentations with visual aids can be 43% more persuasive than those without them.

According to research from the Management Information Systems Research Center, visual aids make a message more persuasive. For this study, researchers gave the same presentation to two different groups of participants. One group watched a presentation that included visuals, and the other group listened to a presentation that didn’t include visuals. At the end of the study, those participants who had watched the presentation with visuals indicated they would “spend 16.4% more time and 26.4% more money” than the other group. When words are coupled with effective and moving visuals, the audience is affected more than if the message contains only text.

4. About 63-65% of humans are visual learners.

According to Forbes and the research of Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman , about 63-65% of us learn best through our sense of sight. That statistic shouldn’t surprise us given the other statistics about how the human brain is built. Visual learners rely heavily on their sense of sight to understand something as opposed to other learning styles which rely more on hearing or doing to learn.

5. Our retention rises by 42% when text is accompanied by graphics.

According to Richard E. Mayer’s text Multimedia Learning, we can help our audiences remember our messages better and longer if we’ll simply include graphics. Because we tend to remember what we see longer than what we hear, this means that presenters should strategically accompany the most important parts of the presentation with powerful media so it sticks with the audience and doesn’t get lost in a sea of words.

These statistics all work together to remind us of this one thing: visuals matter. If you need help creating powerful visuals, our talented design team is ready to help.


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