Are you having trouble getting people to pay attention to what you communicate? Then here's one thing you need to change: Stop putting messages in writing and start using visuals to convey your message.

That means more photographs, video, icons, color and even interesting typography to illustrate what you're trying to get across instead of explaining it in words. Increasingly, visuals need to be one of your key communication strategies. And even if you can't draw, don't think of yourself as a visual person, and don't have the budget hire a graphic designer, you can make communication more appealing through the simple use of visual techniques.

Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin, is a strong advocate of the impact of even the simplest visuals. As he puts it, "Visual thinking means taking advantage of our innate ability to see--both with our eyes and with our mind's eye--in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way that they simply 'get.'"

In short, here are 13 reasons to make any communication more visual:

  1. Half of each person's brain is devoted (directly or indirectly) to vision.
  2. We process images 60,000 times faster than text.
  3. Even words are experienced visually: We learn the alphabet by associating A with Apple, B with Ball, etc. When we read the letters "B-A-L-L," we don't process them individually, rather, we "see" an image of the entire word--and instantly associate the word with a mental picture of a bouncing sphere.
  4. Most people under 18 don't read. They can read; they just don't choose to, especially when they can get the information they need quickly in so many ways.
  5. Most people over 18 don't read either. Many more Americans watch the National Football League than read novels. We skim and scan, rarely pausing long enough to actually pore over every word.
  6. Mobile devices have become the most prevalent communication tools How many words can you fit on those tiny screens? Not too many--but you can show concepts, via pictures and video.
  7. Words are difficult to translate as you operate globally. Visuals, on the other hand, are universal. (That's why Hollywood action movies have so little dialogue and so much happening on screen.)
  8. Visuals tell a whole story, faster and with greater nuance than words. We are all busy--now more than ever. Employees want access to information that is fast and easy to digest and understand. Visuals support the need to "get it" fast.
  9. Visuals are memorable. When we attach a visual to an important message, it creates recall. We can help employees remember messages by giving them visual "handles" to grasp when trying to recall content.
  10. Presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don't use visuals, according to a study by the University of Michigan School of Management.
  11. Visuals are growing in importance. From advertising to entertainment, from highway signs to retail store displays, visuals dominate. As Paul Martin Lester, Ph.D., professor at California State University at Fullerton, writes, "Images . . . fill our newspapers, magazines, books, clothing, billboards, computer monitors and television screens as never before in the history of mass communications." As a result, "We are becoming a visually mediated society. For many, understanding of the world is being accomplished, not through reading words, but by reading images."
  12. Visuals require focus and simplicity. They make you decide on the one concept you need to get across. (Words, on the other hand, allow you to wander.)
  13. The most important reason: In an information-overloaded world, visuals cut through the clutter.