Want to Be More Memorable? Use Contrast in Your Presentations

By Kathy Reiffenstein

We humans love contrast. We employ it in decorating (current hot trend: purple and green); in fashion (current hot trend: Placid Blue and Hemlock Green with a dash of Radiant Orchid); in story (long time trend: good vs. evil) and even in decision making (long time trend: pros and cons).

The reason contrast is so universal is because it highlights and creates memorability. Aren’t you more likely to remember a stunningly decorated room in purple and green than one in all grey? [OK, maybe that’s a female thing]. Contrast implies difference and difference is more memorable than sameness. We are wired to be particularly conscious of differences and they help create meaning for us.

So why not apply this principle to our presentation slide design to enhance the likelihood that our audience will better remember our message?

I’m not just talking about contrast between the background color and the font color, although having strong contrast here is indeed a good idea. I’m talking about using contrast in the size and placement of visuals as well as in color and font choice. Here are some ideas to shake up those slides and give your audience more reason to remember your meaning:

  •     Don’t make all your pictures or illustrations on a slide the same size. Enlarge the one that should have the most prominence in relation to the point you’re making.
  •     Use greyscale or black and white on the visual that signifies the “before” or the problem. Show the “after” or the solution in vivid color.
  •     Make the different elements on your slide very different, not just a little different.
  •     On a bar chart use the same color for all the bars except for the one you want to emphasize. Put that one in a dramatically different color.
  •     When using visuals to signify old and new or “then and now,” choose items that will implicitly communicate the message. An example would be a first generation cell phone and an iPhone side by side.

Fiddling with the placement, size and color of your images on the slides may seem like a small thing. But isn’t it worth trying everything we can to enhance the memorability and impact of our presentations?

About the Author:

Kathy Reiffenstein is the founder and president of And…Now Presenting!, a Washington D.C.-area business communications training firm that offers a suite of public speaking and presentation skills programs geared to creating confident, persuasive speakers. Visit Kathy’s website at www.andnowpresenting.com to subscribe to her bi-weekly presentation tips or her blog where you’ll find fresh insights on public speaking.

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