The “Wow!” effect: illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann’s TED Talk offers tips for an outstanding layout

The “Wow!” effect: illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann’s TED Talk offers tips for an outstanding layout

When the German-born illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann decides to talk about the creation of images, you must stop to listen. Not only for being a highly respected illustrator, but also for being one of the few who understands the power of visuals. Niemann knows how a drawing, no matter how simple, can deeply move the person looking at it.


The designer also understands simplicity, a concept we, here at SOAP, cherish. His work embraces minimalism in an impressive way, using few lines and colors. His uniqueness, as you can see from this TED Talk he gave, is the interaction between drawings and “real” objects, which make his illustrations striking and amusing. They say a lot with few resources.



The power of visual language


According to Niemann, what makes visual language powerful is the possibility of passing on a complex idea in a simple and efficient form, which is something we also endorse for presentations. Most importantly, images can trigger emotions. He uses the Wi-Fi symbol as an example: when we get to a new and unknown place and bump into this symbol, we feel happy, relieved.


When something is deeply engraved in our consciousness, we need fewer details to develop an emotion towards that. By using quite illustrative examples, the designer shows that happens because we are very good at “filling in the blanks”; images are drawn in our minds. Besides, images are excellent tools to start off the audience’s memory, since they are usually easier to take in than the written content of the slides.


Therefore, how much information we need to lead to audience’s comprehension, emotion and memorization? Niemann says his purpose as an artist is to use “the smallest amount as possible”. “As a designer, is absolutely key to have a good understanding of the visual and cultural vocabulary of your audience”, he says. If you read SOAP’S blog, you probably know we always insist on that matter. For a good communication, we must take into consideration the onlookers’ knowledge and references, whether it is one person, or an auditorium filled to capacity.


Niemann also says most people underestimate others’ capacity to interpret images, that’s why we see so many clichés out there. “They won’t understand this new approach, we should go for something more familiar.”


Here at SOAP, we often go through that. It is customary to have our suggestion to use metaphors denied by a client who is insecure and would rather use a most obvious strategy. However, when we make an unexpected association, we trigger the audience’s brain, enabling them to take in the message for longer. This is our job: not just to illustrate, but to develop a visual symbol that will enhance the comprehension of the message.


And Niemann reminds us we should not undervalue people when we create these symbols. After all, they are “fluent” when considering visual language (even if they are unaware of that), a fact to be considered when designing the layout of presentations.


The “Wow!” moment  


Niemann considers himself successful when his illustrations have the “Aha!” effect on people. But he highlights it does not mean he had had an eureka moment when he came up with the image. “I need a presentation that has the ‘Wow!’ effect” – that is the reason why most of our clients come to us, because that is our strong suit.


Nevertheless, both SOAP’s and Niemann’s creative process is not “unsexy” at all, since it requires a number of small designing decisions that might lead to an idea. Like in poetry, the designer declares, we might unearth images that have been inside the audience’s mind all along, but they had no idea they were there to begin with.


Niemann concludes by stating what he considers to be an artist’s main feature, or skill: empathy; something we strongly subscribe to here at SOAP and in the projects we develop. Creativity is important, so is methodology, but we need to take a step back and look at the layout through the eyes of the listeners, which are the people to whom that piece of communication was developed. Once we achieved that, magic happens neither on paper nor on stage: it happens inside your audience’s mind.



Why Should a Business Presentation Tell a Story?


Okay, you may ask yourself: these people at SOAP are always talking about “Story.” So what is the big deal?


Well, for one thing, it’s been proven that the human brain is more receptive to stories than to lists of facts, bunches of data and the reports that drown us at most presentations.  In fact, research tells us that a story has a strong impact on its audience. The main reason for this to happen is that a story brings up emotion (of many different natures, good or bad, but emotion).  And so story is a powerful tool for engaging and winning over audiences, regardless of their profiles and backgrounds.


While in business presentations stories can’t replace the important nuts-and-bolts data, they can serve as a background or framework for the presentation of that data. There is a far greater chance for information retention when it’s communicated in a larger context in ways that touch on audience members’ emotions and impress upon the audience the relevance and importance of what’s being presented.


An example? Imagine a bank director who needs the managers to improve customer service. The options for getting this done:


Option 1 – Provide hard data: The director can simply present a multitude of charts and tables on the subject that show the solid results of good customer service.




Option 2 – Tell a story: The director can tell the story of another manager who, by improving customer service practices, leveraged the customer base and so grew sales while also being acknowledged for his/her effort and seeing the professional and personal benefits that come from such acknowledgement.


Clearly the advantage of Option 2 is that instead of showing the managers a bunch of numbers, the director chose to tell a story that would hit home. The managers listened to the story and identified with the emotionally charged context, realizing the benefits that could accrue from a change in behavior. And with that the chances of the managers embracing the proposed new customer service guidelines increased substantially.


The message of this blog post seems obvious (we are always talking about how stories are important), but sometime the obvious is forgotten on our daily routines. So the next time you plan a presentation, don’t forget to tell a story in order to frame your message. Those who hear your presentation will remember that story long after they’ve forgotten all the drab facts and figures, and your message will be recalled long after the presentation is over.

How to Handle a Q & A Session

A Q&A session should be the last segment of every presentation you make, as it’s a time when doubts can be clarified and issues further explored. It’s also a great opportunity to interact with your public and learn more about their concerns, questions and interests. So, if you’ve mastered the subject you’re presenting and you feel confident, you should always save some minutes for audience questions at the end of the presentation.


Here are some tips on handling a Q & A session:


1. Announce the session: If you’re sure that there will be time for a Q & A at the end of a presentation, tell your audience early on. This way you avoid interruptions; you can even encourage the audience to make note of their questions as you go along, so you can answer them in the end.


2. Repeat the questions: When you’re presenting in large auditoriums, there should be a microphone available for the audience. If there isn’t, repeat each question into your own microphone before answering. Everybody in the room needs  to know what question is being answered.


3. Be brief: Make sure you stick to what is asked and give concise answers, especially if a lot of people are waiting their turn. Also, if you take too long in answering a question, you may annoy the audience and compromise the good impression you made throughout the presentation.



1. Be a mediator: In addition to answering audience questions, be a mediator too. If somebody insists on a point, repeats a question or starts to ramble off-topic, explain that you’ll be happy to address that particular question via email.


2. Relax in the face of hard questions: If you don’t understand a question, ask for a rephrasing. If you don’t know the answer (and this can happen), admit it. (Being honest can only help you with an audience.) Once you’ve said you’re not able to answer well at that moment, tell the questioner that you’ll do some research on the topic and get back to the entire audience on it – by email, for example. (Then again, if you think there’s an audience member qualified to answer that particular question, throw it to that person.)


3. End on time: If a lot of people have questions and you’re running out of time, announce a few minutes beforehand that you can take only one or two more questions. (And you should try to close the session with an answer that strengthens your main message.)


So for your next presentation, make sure you save some time for a Q&A, and use these tips. You’re audience will appreciate it.

7 Tips on How to Use Your Voice Effectively for Presentations

The voice is an important tool for inspiring and engaging audiences. To create an impact, to be clear, natural and expressive, the voice needs to be used well. Here, we talk about ways in which presenters can show more enthusiasm in their speeches.


  1. Intonation and Melody

A speech that is absolutely regular, without variation in tone and melody, will bore an audience in just a few minutes. So when training for a presentation, decide which words and passages deserve extra attention and increase the tone to emphasize these points. But do this naturally!  If something sounds exaggerated or false, your audience can turn against you.


  1. Volume

Considering that your goal is to be heard and trusted by your audience, forget discretion and speak in a way such that everybody in the audience can hear you. To draw the audience’s attention to certain parts of a speech, try varying the volume – sometimes louder, sometimes softer – so that selected passages stand out from the rest. Even if you’re presenting with a microphone, don’t always speak softly. In this case, it’s preferable to distance yourself a bit from the microphone and speak more loudly than you would close up. A speech is not ordinary conversation, and a presenter can’t convey passion and enthusiasm if the words are delivered softly.


  1. Clarity

Don’t forget to articulate every word, to ensure clarity on your part and understanding on the part of the audience.


  1. Emphasis

Even in the same sentence, emphasizing different words can change the focus of  a message. Look: “I went to the office of that supplier,” “I went to the office of that supplier,” “I went to the office of that supplier,” “I went to the office of that supplier.” Remember Robert DeNiro in that famous movie scene?  Changing emphasis can alter meaning and/or implication.


  1. Pauses

Carmen Taran notes that it’s the rare presenter who makes use of pauses. According to Taran, when pauses are placed in strategic spots in a speech, they can make the difference between a good and an excellent presentation. There are several purposes for which pauses can be used: to give listeners a chance to absorb something that’s just been said; to generate expectations about something that’s going to be said; to give the presenter a chance to think about what will be said next; to enable the presenter to breathe properly; and even to give a presenter time to think before answering a particular question.


  1. Pacing

If you often get negative feedback about the faster or slower delivery of your speeches, practice delivering a speech sometimes faster and sometimes slower, so you can arrive at a natural pace. If a speech is delivered too fast, it can hinder understanding and generate anxiety in the audience. If it’s delivered too slowly, it can tire and bore people.


  1. Tone

There must be consistency between the presenter’s tone and the content being transmitted. Nobody can prove indignation while speaking softly, nor is it possible to demonstrate control of a situation if using a desperate tone. Make sure you internalize the content of the presentation, check to see if it’s consistent with what you believe, then set the right tone for that particular speech or part of the speech.


Don’t forget to apply these 7 tips on how to use your voice effectively for presentations and we guarantee you a better performance as a presenter, a better presentation overall and a more enthusiastic audience.

If you need any help to create a presentation… click here and contact us!

Training For A Presentation

After the script and the slides for your presentation are ready, it’s time to think about training you, the presenter.  This training for a presentation is critical to your success as a presenter


Besides preparing yourself to do the presentation, training also helps to reduce the anxiety and stress that can precede a major event.


It’s natural: many are intimidated by the thought of getting up on stage, and, because of this some can feel a bit insecure: What happens if there’s interference from the audience? What happens if nerves win out over competence?


This is why good preparation is so important: it helps to make a speaker more confident and relaxed and so increases the chances of success.


Training can include multiple steps:


1.       Script and Slides as Support

Rely especially on the script, but also on the slides, to support you in thoroughly learning the speech. Start by using the full text to rehearse; then gradually remove text until you have only key words as cues. Instead of learning your presentation by heart, try to understand it first. If you know what you want to say, you can make room to ad lib how you say it. This is one of the best tools a presenter can have.


2.       Macro Vision

When you feel comfortable with your speech, practice your presentation in computer “Slide Sorter” mode. Using as reference only the set of miniature slides, get a macro view (overview) of the speech and learn to become independent of the wording on the slides. Also, practice speaking in your own usual manner: this way you invest in the fluency of the presentation. The goal is to let your speech be free, having the slides only as support.


During training, try to identify the building blocks of your presentation and how they are interconnected. This is the macro view: each part has its own central message that is introduced both in the speech and the slides. (Comparing this with a DVD: it’s the same thing as viewing the small chapter images in Menu mode.)


3.       Slides One by One

By now you should have good control of the presentation, so you’re ready to do a rehearsal in front of the large screen, moving the slides one by one. Pay attention to the timing of the slide animation in relation to the elements of your speech. Don’t forget to synchronize the animation with them.


And this is equally important: Don’t let the slides master you. Try to start each part of your speech moments before each slide is displayed. This way the audience will get the message that you know what you’re talking about.


4.       Without Visual References

To complete the training, try to make the presentation without visual support. If you have difficulty with this, start by referring to some key slides, then remove them gradually during the training. When you can make your speech without any visual support at all, you have become totally independent of the slides, so now you’re ready to meet your public with confidence.


Try also to tell your story in 10% of the time you have to present it. This will force you to focus on only the key points.


5.       Evaluation

As the last stage of the training, record your presentation and then listen to it or watch it to assess your performance. This critical evaluation can be done by you or by a third party (in recorded or live form). Just try not to do this step at the last minute – it’s far preferable to do this test well in advance, so you have time to make and practice necessary changes.


How to make numbers interesting

Imagine attending a meeting where only numbers, data and graphics are displayed. A little tiring, no? And what if the presentation you have to sit through features 120,000 numbers?


Yes, it would be pure torture to have to pay attention to that, not to mention a serious challenge for the presenter.
After all, how can you convey information in a didactic way? Often, the numbers are the protagonists of the story, and there’s just no escaping it.  This often ends up being a case of sacrificing presentation for results when quantitative research data is needed to endorse statements.


The good news is there are solutions for this!  Here’s how Hans Rosling used creativity to deal with this issue:


To his mind, information graphics should be considered an art form.


Now take a look at another example, created by Column Five Media, that shows how you can use data visuals for strong and interesting communication:


Unfortunately, though, not everybody can use tools like we see in these two videos.


But we can give you four tips that can help you to overcome the challenge of number saturation:


• Value your information
Whenever possible, put just one chart on a slide. That usually requires LESS effort than trying to put to much into a slide.


• “Boring” numbers are still important
So use sources with at least 16px, and be sure that the key figures are highlighted in the charts.


Get rid of everything that is not crucial
Is the chart really necessary? If all that matters is the valuation of a security, just show an arrow up and the figure. Only include the chart when history is important.


Use color wisely.
Use color(s) to separate discrete bits of information.


• Use slide animation wisely.
Guide the audience’s attention to your chart by showing the information in stages. Have the animations follow your speech, highlighting only what you are pointing out, and fading everything else.

Power Point is not a document


Over time, in the minds of many people PowerPoint has come to be synonymous with presentation.


But is it right to say that  a group of slides is in fact a presentation?


At  SOAP we look at PowerPoint as a tool we can use to create presentations. A tool that can help enhance (or even ruin) the idea we’re presenting.


But that doesn’t make PowerPoint itself a presentation.


Changing the platform,  changes the way Power Point can be used

Have you noticed that most of the shared folders in schools, colleges and company libraries contain thousands of slides full of bullet points and data? Not one of these can be considered a presentation. For data purposes, the most appropriate program is Excel.


PPT is not a document

And the controversy about PowerPoint and presentations goes even deeper: many use the tool as if it were a document.


But it turns out that the best platform for this purpose is Word. It is Word that should be used for e-mail and made available for shared folders. Not slides.


Here’s a Tip: What we send isn’t what we present

  • In PowerPoint presentations, what should appear on a slide are the visual and as little text as possible (unless it’s indispensable to the presenter’s speech).


  • What we should be sending by e-mail and making available in publicly accessible folders is the more complete material, since the person on the receiving end won’t have access to the speech.


Use the software most suitable to your audience and format.


If your audience is in front of computers, send them documents that can surprise them, documents that can also tell a story.


But keep in mind that nothing can ever really replace a live presentation! Which is far more than a slide show.

Trump and Jong-un: what the historic summit has taught us about body language.

The world recently witnessed an unprecedented event: Donald Trump, president of the USA, and Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, met in Singapore. It was the first summit between heads of government from both countries. The agenda included issues of global interest, such as the Asian country denuclearization, peace in the Korean Peninsula, and economic sanctions.

If we consider the communication alone, it is supposable the pressure Trump and Jong-un were under in that decisive moment. Although the atmosphere evoked conciliation, both had their own agenda. Each intended to convey a specific message to the other – and to the world who was watching them closely.

According to body language experts, the communication between both leaders went far beyond words. Gestures and expressions used by Trump and Jong-un showed the two leaders tried to take over the control of the summit, however, they also projected apprehension.


So, before expressing yourself, you must have a script ready

The event taught us the importance of body language during negotiations: it takes a bit more than the words we say to convince our audience. Our gestures and expressions can create an invisible but huge impact on others. Or, we are interacting with them or drive them away.

In addition, body language allows us to guide the meeting towards the target and the goals we have previously established.

For example, Trump and Jong-Un summit encouraged us to put together some tips, so your body and your words may express exactly the message as intended during a meeting.


Give other your full attention

An additional detail to improve your body language is to practice your full attention just before the meeting. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try to connect your attention to your breathing compass. Allow your mind to focus only on this activity. After that, add a purpose: a sentence to be repeated like a mantra. For an example: “I’m ready”, breath in and out; “I’m ready”, breath in and out; and go on.

This possible will prepare you to achieve your full attention in a decisive moment and to analyze better the other person, understanding his or her emotional state – if he or she is tense, for instance. With a better understanding of the meeting, we can adjust our speech (verbal and non-verbal) according to the needs as they emerge.

No matter what, always make eye contact. Looking at the people you are speaking within the eye suggests you are paying attention to them, their reactions and arguments. Speaking steadily is another good tip. Your audience only needs a few seconds to take in your message, besides they will see it as a respectful attitude.


You should also mind your facial expression. As tense as the negotiation might be, keeping a sober manner might indicate we are not willing to reach a deal. Moreover, sympathy is always a good way of disarming hostile approaches.


Nonetheless, do not overdo it: smiling too much or laughing on the wrong occasion might seem inappropriate for the moment.


Remember: the moment is decisive; hence the need for preparation above all. That is how you accomplish self-confidence to guide the negotiation towards the target you may establish.


Tips from our art directors for you design a visually striking presentation

The visual support of a presentation – the well-known slides – is an important tool to get people’s attention and explain complex concepts graphically.

To help you achieve a state-of-the-art layout, just like the SOAP’s ones, we have gathered tips from the biggest experts we know: our art directors! They are responsible for developing our clients’ visual identities and coordinating their presentations. Now,  they have agreed on sharing their knowledge.

Check out seven valuable steps to frame more interesting and appealing slides, and hence a more convincing presentation.


Write a good script

If you thought you would come here just for visual tips, you were wrong. A truly impressive layout must be related to a good script.

The script and the layout work together, and they must be in tune. A well-built script allows us to perceive the main subjects to be discussed and where our focus should be on. With that in hand, it is easier to create slides to elucidate and add to the speech – rather than repeating the speaker. Besides, a precise script trims excesses, especially regarding the number of texts.


Decide on a visual identity

Creating a visual identity is elemental, whether it is intended as a product, an event or a brand. Just as we have explained here, colors, typeface, shapes, and symbols you choose are means to make your audience recognize your business, as well as granting a sense of wholeness to your presentation.

In addition, a visual identity conveys the values and essence of your project. Good news is: you only need to work on it once. Then you just apply the same pattern to further presentations – considering you are dealing with similar purpose, context, and audience.

For an example: if an IT professional gives a talk, about strategy, during a sales convention, the visual identity must be more distinctive, and make use of metaphors and animation effects to draw attention and connect the audience. However, if the same presentation is addressed to the Board of Directors, the visual must be different.


Divide the content into categories

It never gets old: in a good presentation, there is neither too much text nor illustrations on the same slide. Besides mangling the presentation, the overflow of information has a contrary effect: it compromises rather than helping comprehension.

So, opt for dividing the most complex projections into two or three slides, thereby offering a more clarifying material that will not confuse listeners. It would be dreadful if someone could not follow your line of thought because is trying to read the small letters or the 15 bullet points you have chosen.

One tip: divide the information of your presentation by messages, and use tools, such as ‘Click’, which inserts image or text on the slide, it makes the presentation more dynamic and visually enjoyable.


Use contrasts

Contrast (of colors, sizes, and shapes) is an excellent tool to make a presentation more interesting and draw audience’s attention. The technique can be applied in different ways. So, be bold! You might create different sizes and typefaces for your texts, use contrasting colors to display information, and even vary the dimensions of your pictures. Such strategies increase the chances of your audience looking precisely at the information you want.


Choose illustrations carefully

Deciding on certain images and tone colors makes all the difference for your visual presentation. It is worth applying the psychology of colors: each tonality triggers a different feeling in people. Calmness, mental strain, and even hunger can be set off by specific colors, hence the reason to find images with tone colors suitable for the subject matter being discussed.

We must also always make sure to choose illustrations that make sense in the context of the keynote. Avoid old or low-quality images and try to follow a pattern. Do not put together in the same presentation pictures, drawings or other types of illustrations.



The way you arrange objects on the slide imparts organization and clarity (or else!). Therefore, for the layout of your presentation, make good use of tools, such as contrast, pay attention to the text alignment and page margin. Organize your information in a way that is both delightful and meaningful.

You may find different examples of layout in newspapers and magazines. So, if you are out of ideas on how to design your presentation, just grab the first publication near you.


Search for references

A good technique to help you take in so many tips is to search for examples to study. On our website download page, you find the e-books developed by the same team that has shared these tips.


However, if you still need some help, we are here for you.

How an amateur layout may influence the numbers of a company

When you go to a restaurant, even before placing your order, you judge the quality of the place by its decoration and cleanliness. Savoring a good dish and getting an efficient waiter service will obviously be the main reasons to decide whether you liked the place, however, a cozy environment also influences your final impression. The same thing happens in presentations where a well-trained speaker and a good message are the core of the talk, but when added to well-framed slides and a professional layout, they provide a lot more reliability.


A sales team, for an example, may lose a client with an amateur layout. When a salesperson presents to a prospect a product/service portfolio, or even a specific solution, he/she wants to make an impact. The goal is to convince the other person to close the deal. Ugly, disorganized slides, with low-quality pictures and a typeface difficult to read make a terrible first impression. By the end of the meeting, you may even convince your prospect due to the quality of the speech, but, sometimes, the first impression is what matters.


A speech will make a smaller or bigger impact depending on the presentation design. A thoughtful presentation aligned with the visual identity of the company reveals there were preparation and investment for the meeting.


Cheapest is dearest. Bellow, we list some common problems with amateur layouts that might harm presentation outcomes and, therefore, lead your company to opportunity losses:


Too much information results in confusion

One slide, 15 different bullet points and a speaker who just reads the information from the screen. The consequence is an unclear central message – whether it is because the speaker could not attach great importance to the content, or the audience, disoriented, did not know where to focus their attention on. It is impossible to generate engagement like this. The information on the screen should just add to what the speaker is saying, rather than be his/her exact words. Professionals who develop accomplished presentations can help presenters to choose between what goes on the slides and what must be spoken.

People do not understand (or cannot see) the numbers on the screen

A common mistake in presentations that use numbers, like result meetings, is to simply copy data from Excel and paste it into PowerPoint. Usually, charts and tables have lots of numbers and use small letters. The audience is forced to make an unnecessary effort to read what is on the screen, therefore overlooking what the speaker has to say. Even worse, they are utterly confused and their ability to decide is harmed. Those trained to design professional presentations are also able to choose numbers, tell the story behind them and highlight them in a way that the audience understands.


Too much time wasted assembling presentations

Usually, people in charge of assembling corporate presentations are not experts in design. Consequently, they will have to put a lot of time and effort to produce a visually acceptable material. However, it would be more efficient to have those professionals focusing their energy on their area of expertise, therefore producing results for the company, and outsource the presentation-making process. Wasting working hours of trained professionals in a struggle against the PowerPoint is a questionable use of their time, which could be used for so many other relevant tasks regarding the company.


If your company needs to plan and develop presentations with a professional layout, you can rely on SOAP to help you!