The power of visual communication

17 June, 2018
Visual communication

The power of visual communication

“A picture paints a thousand words” – it is an old saying and one you have probably heard thousands of times. It doesn’t make it any less true though – visuals have a power that, in many situations, text or audio simply can’t match. This particularly applies when you consider the power of visual communication in a complex, organisational setting.

Here are a few simple examples of the value and importance of visual communication:

  • New skyscraper proposal – an architect would not dream of giving a multi-page report to her client describing in words a planned new skyscraper. Instead, the architect would create a scale model based on drawings that show the visual appearance of the building and how it fits into its surroundings.
  • Directions – it is relatively easy to follow directions using a map, particularly when this is accompanied by audio instructions. It is much more difficult, however, to follow written or audio directions, particularly if the route is complex.
  • Social media – social media has its faults, but it can be a good barometer of the way people think and act. Just look at the hugely popular social media platforms that are almost exclusively visual. Instagram and YouTube are two of the best examples. There are statistics that demonstrate the power of visuals too. On Facebook, for example, you can expect 2.3 times more engagement on average when you include an image in a post compared to when it is just text.


Communicating complex messages

If we know visual communication is so effective, why then do many people in business still turn to a traditional, text-heavy documents, emails and slide presentations when they need to deliver training or inform employees of a new business strategy, for example? Obviously familiarity with using these traditional approaches is part of the problem but so is the perception that visual learning is something that only “visual, creative people” can use. In addition, as with many things in life, there are naysayers. These people get hooked on the myth that visual communication is a fad that will fizzle out over time.

However, the reality is that visual communication existed long before verbal and written communication. Human beings (Homo Sapiens) have been around for approximately 200,000 years.  Written language started to appear around 5,000 years ago.  In the remaining 195,000 years, images and pictures were our primary way of relaying information.  So, far from being a fad, visual communication has always been with us. It is hard-wired into our brains helping us understand new concepts easier and quicker and then retain that information.


The business case for visual communication

So, what are the real, tangible benefits of visual communication and how do you make a business case for adopting a more visual approach to your employee communications and training?

Visual communication:

  • Ensures the message is clear – this goes back to the saying of a picture being worth a thousand words. With a visual, it is much less likely the recipients of the communication will misunderstand the message.
  • Better retention rates – according to studies, people remember 80 percent of what they see compared to 10 percent of what they hear and 20 percent of what they read.
  • Is attention-grabbing – it is much easier to capture the attention of a recipient of the information when you use a visual. The more compelling, attractive, and interesting the image is, the more attention-grabbing it will be.
  • Has impact – when people hear they are going to receive a face-to-face communication or training, they expect a classroom environment and a slide presentation. Using a powerful visual instead, however, is different and innovative, creating greater impact.
  • Increases credibility – we are going to use another cliché here: seeing is believing. With a visual, you show people rather than telling them, adding credibility to the message you are delivering.
  • Helps people see to see connections – slide presentations reveal information in a very linear fashion slide after slide. A single, unifying visual representation of your key messages allows your audience to see how things connect together and their role in the big picture.


Applying visual communication to your business

Buying into a visual communication approach doesn’t mean you should cancel all your PowerPoint licenses and ban email communications. These tools will remain important in your business for the foreseeable future. However, there will be situations where a more visual approach to communication will be more effective. Recognising those situations and then deciding to communicate and train differently will let you benefit from the power of visual learning.

At The Big Picture People, we believe that helping employees to understand the big picture of their organisation makes them feel more passionate about their work and ultimately contribute more. However, most of the time we find employees can only see a small part of the organisation and have a narrow view of what the organisation does and why it does it. They can’t see how what they do fits in with everything else.  It’s like the all have their own individual piece of the organisational “jigsaw puzzle” but no one has ever really shown them the lid of the jigsaw box. This is what our big picture learning approach is all about… sharing the big picture of the organisation.

The big picture learning approach literally helps them to see the BIG PICTURE of the organisation. It shoes them how different parts of the organisation fit together as a complex system. We’ve had impressive results from using this approach. A recent client reported a major improvement in engagement with new company values across a population of 16,000 employees after working with us.

Get in touch with us to find out how you can apply our big picture learning approach to your organisation.

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