Not all visual presentations are created equal; here’s the research to prove it.
Intuitively, you probably know that when it comes to telling a story that prospects remember, one told with words alone won’t measure up to one that includes visuals. In the academic world, this is known as the Picture Superiority Effect, a principle that, by my count, has been validated by more than a dozen studies.
One of those studies found that people remember only 10 percent of what they’re told just two days after hearing it. But, if you accompany that story with images, that recall figure jumps to 65 percent.
But you probably don’t need a study to tell you that great visual storytelling can make a difference in the areas of engagement and information recall, both so vital to great customer conversations. But the question is, what kind of visuals actually have the greatest effect on your sales interactions?
In other words, how do you make sure you’re maximizing the power of the Picture Superiority Effect?
Recently, I teamed up with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, to put that question to the test. For the experiment, more than 700 participants were asked to watch a selling message delivered in one of three online videos. Each video included the exact same story told the exact same way.
The only difference? The visual used to support that message.
The three types of visuals were:
- The traditional PowerPoint technique, using simple bullet points and stock photography.
- The “Zen” PowerPoint technique, which featured a large, metaphorical photograph with one symbolic phrase.
- A presentation using whiteboard-style visuals, delivered as though a presenter were drawing it live in front of the audience.
After viewing the presentations, participants were asked a series of questions and told to retell what they’d heard. This sequence was given immediately after participants viewed the video, then repeated two days later.
Retention, engagement level, validity, quality and persuasiveness—these were the areas the questions were designed to measure for each video. So, which visual story ranked the best?
According to Tormala, the whiteboard-style presentation outperformed the PowerPoint presentations by a statistical significance of more than 10 percent across all of the following categories:
- Retention – Participants demonstrated higher, greater and more accurate recall.
- Engagement level – Participants found the whiteboard story more thoughtful and engaging.
- Validity – The whiteboard presentation was found to be superior in trustworthiness and expert credibility.
- Quality – The whiteboard story measured higher in clarity and was shown to be more compelling than the PowerPoint presentations.
- Persuasiveness – Participants in the whiteboard condition indicated they were more likely to share the information or persuade others.
Maybe the most telling discovery: The impact of the whiteboard story, unlike that of the two “static” presentation conditions, was felt by those who watched it even days after viewing the story. In fact, the study found that participants, two days after seeing the presentation, were significantly more likely to say they’d changed their own behaviors as a result of what they’d seen and heard.
So, what does this experiment really mean? It’s simple: If you want to make the impact you need to make in your customer conversations, it’s time to drop the clicker, turn on the lights, pick up a marker and deliver a more engaging and memorable visual story.