Why use visuals?

In the coming weeks, we’ll be doing more and more presentations in class.  One of the things I often remind students to ask themselves is:

  • Why? Why are you presenting? Is it to read through your notes or outlines as quickly as possible and say, “I’m finished. Next please”? Or (and this is the “correct answer” 🙂 ), is it to



make us curious about your topic,

make us think about your topic in new ways,

and maybe even entertain?

One of the ways to do this, especially when you’re dealing with statistics about countries, is to introduce those statistics in interesting and unusual ways.

For instance, if you wanted to explain how big Myanmar is, you could say, “Myanmar is about 675,000 square kilometers in area.” But really, how meaningful is that to most people?

Or, you could show them a map like this and say, “Myanmar is about the size of Texas” (or make a map that is even more meaningful to your audience).


Or, say you wanted to talk about how the elderly population of Japan (over age 65) has reached nearly 25% of the total population. Numbers are fine, but images make an impact, especially images that make you look at the topic in a different way:

Worldwide distribution of people over the age of 65

Say you wanted to try to persuade your audience that tobacco is much more harmful than marijuana. Try a graph that really helps you make your point:

And if you want to persuade your audience that tablets are not, in fact, “dead”, just show them a comparison chart like this one:

Visuals make things easier to understand, they’re more interesting to look at than just text (or just the speaker’s face), and they help you, the speaker, by allowing you to remember what you wanted to say, so you don’t have to look at your notes so much.

And you don’t have to limit your visuals to statistics, maps, graphs and charts. You can use visuals to help you explain a concept or a problem:


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