Theatre has a supporting set:
Presentations have supporting visuals.
Have you ever asked, “What is the verisimilitude of my PowerPoint presentation?” Well, of course not! Verisimilitude is a huge word used most often in the theatrical and musical worlds. It is the appearance of truth – otherwise known as the ability of a play to be believable. It carries with its use an artistic call to enhance creativity and expression without losing the truth of the story.
Sure you can put together slides to go with your presentation. Or, you can take the extra time to go beyond the simple facts and explore the verisimilitude of the message.
Librettist, Lisa Kron, at the Tony Awards, shared her real live dream with the audience during her acceptance speech for Fun Home. The verisimilitude of her dream of a house that has rooms yet to be discovered awakened her audience to an imagined reality. Her particular vision moved us to a new way to see the world of professionally produced theatre. Calling us to finally see other rooms that have been there all along, she relayed a truth that expanded our emotional connection to the situation without calling us out or scolding or sharing “too much” emotion. Like Lisa Kron, our visual presentation can move our audience beyond the average acceptance speech. It can truly inspire and guide our audience visually while we communicate our message verbally.
When we sit down to create our PowerPoint partner, we need to ask the questions:
- What is the purpose of the visual part of this presentation?
- How many key concepts will it have?
- What needs to be contained in each section?
- How will I build the presentation so that the storyline is believable and clear?
- What images support and expand the message?
Too often, visuals are crammed full of information. One slide contains too many ideas and the storyline becomes lost. Here are a few tips to be sure your content is “correct” and to allow for the creativity and energy of verisimilitude.
Tip One: Your visual presentation must support your storyline.
Rather than reading your slides to your audience, imagine ways to visually express the verbal content. Lead them beyond. Think about your key idea or concept and provide visual support for this idea through pictures, words, graphs, etc.
* Note: Some schools of thought suggest there is a correct number of slides for a certain length of presentation. And that there is a correct amount of time to spend on each slide. We believe that is a misleading concept. The slide and the time spent on each slide matches the thought – some are longer than others naturally.
Tip Two: It must be simple and have a clear message.
Too often presenters create a slide with more than one idea per slide. Build out your deck so that you have one idea or key concept per slide. Your audience will appreciate this approach and your visual story will be clearer.
Tip Three: It needs structure.
Classical plays had five acts – so should our PowerPoint partners. Create separate heading slides for your key “acts”. This will help your audience follow your story. The heading slides will serve as section headers so that your audience can transition to what is coming next.
Tip Four: It must have purpose.
The storyline needs to unfold through the entire production. Spend time thinking about the flow of the storyline of your presentation. Every slide and section needs to unfold into the next until we are ready for the final curtain.
Theatre reminds us of the impact and importance of our visuals in story telling. Presentations are stories. We are a visual culture and our PowerPoint partner can add different colors to our set so that the reality and creativity of our message is enhanced and supported. Don’t forget to give the creation of them due thought, consideration and time.
Written by Robin A. Miller, Ph. D.