Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

Killer looks


One of the ideas I was experimenting with in my recent superman-film was the attempt of making the visuals entertaining enough to overcome the world's least passionate voice-over. Based on the feedback I received it seems I had a certain degree of success. I'm sure you'll also agree that well delivered speeches can work brilliantly on their own. I therefore started to ponder the thought: "can a brilliant speech be ruined by poor visuals?"

Powerpoint-presentations are today's most used form of oral-visual presentations. It is also the most loathed one. The last few years have spurred a lot of articles about how Powerpoint is often used in a way that actually lessens the impact of a message, so the answer to my question should be fairly obvious. But how far can you push it? I chose a few seconds from President Kennedy's inaugural address as this is one of the most inspirational speeches made in the last century. Below you can see how it comes across when I've "complimented" the speech with slides from a standard Powerpoint-template.

Edit: I've replaced the original quicktime-file with the YouTube clip

To me the effect is almost unbelievable. I find the 40 seconds or so to be mind shattering dull. Now here's the trick: Try playing the clip again, but with your eyes closed. It's better isn't it? So, if poor visuals can lessen the power of JFK in his prime, then just think what they could do to your average presenter. Does this mean you should just skip the visuals the next time you're making a presentation. Not necessarily. The right visuals can improve the audience's experience and their emotional connection with the material. However, if you're not willing to invest the time and resources to get the visuals right, you're probably better off leaving Powerpoint at home...