If the picture sucks, is it still worth 1,000 words?

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? What about a messy picture? Is it possible for a picture to be so complicated that it ends up being worth negative words because nobody understands what it means?

Diagrams are a common method of delivering information in an oral presentation. Often times they simply deliver information better and more concisely than words alone can. For example, this flowchart:

is much easier to understand by looking at the picture than it would if it were to be described in sentences.

But what happens when you have more complex ideas to convey? Sometimes things get complicated and you end up with lots of words and shapes that you are asking people to interpret. What do you do when you have so much information to try to squeeze into a picture that the whole thing becomes noise to first time viewers?

In my set of reference articles on PowerPoint Tactics, I walk through taking something that looks like this:

An example of a bad diagram slide (click to enlarge)

and making it easier to understand through a set of tips on dealing with graphical slides, which are a lot different than text-based ones.

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