Podcast December 20, 2023

Crafting Compelling Visual Narratives: How to Improve Your Presentations


Picture this: you’re hired by a company to collect and analyze their operational data to produce recommendations on how they can more effectively run their company. It’s a difficult task, but as an operations professional you know how to get it done. You get to work producing a report with a series of recommendations for operational improvements, all based on the immense amount of data you’ve collected from the company.

Now comes the easy part: you build a slide deck, filled with graphs, tables, and text – all with the goal of conveying to your client the amazing work you’ve done. Once it’s complete, you present this deliverable to the client, only to be told the one statement you never want to hear: “I don’t understand this slide.” As it turns out, creating high quality and easy to understand deliverables is not so easy. For you, it’s a disappointing conclusion to some genuinely good work. For your client, it can be an expensive frustration with deliverables they don’t quite understand.

In this blog post with the help of formatting-extraordinaire Daniel Wang, we’ll delve into the many ways you can improve your deliverables, especially as it relates to the presentation of data and recommendations. To do so, we’ll give tips on three key areas that are essential to crafting compelling visual narratives: consistency, grouping & highlighting, and visual hierarchy.

Why is Formatting Important to Crafting a Visual Narrative?

Formatting is the part of design that enables you to produce high value visual narratives through concepts such as consistency, grouping & highlighting, and visual hierarchy. It’s important to keep formatting in mind when building deliverables for some key reasons:

Convey Professionalism: Whether you’re presenting to a client or a prospect, sloppy formatting suggests a poor attention to detail in your work.

Producing High-Value Deliverables: In professional services, your deliverables will often be a slide deck with just a few slides. Good formatting in your deliverables is key to ensuring your client is getting the most out of their hard-earned money.

Reduces Visual Friction: Proper formatting helps you to simplify the transfer of knowledge. It enables you to clarify even the most complex concepts, and reduces the effort needed from the client to maintain focus and understand what you are trying to convey.



One of the easiest ways to improve the quality and readability of your deliverables, consistency is the art of ensuring that every element on every slide remains remains cohesive throughout. Some elements like font, font size and color you likely already keep consistent — but there is so much more that needs to be accounted for. By maintaining consistency across all the elements included in the toolkit below, you’ve already taken the first steps towards crafting a compelling and easy to understand deliverable.

Grouping & Highlighting 

This design concept is essential in creating intentional and instantly recognizable visual guides for viewers. By grouping certain items in your slides you can more easily represent associations. This allows the viewer to immediately understand how certain features in your slides relate to one another. Using various forms of highlighting such as colors, callouts, labelling or sizing allows you to communicate to your viewers exactly what each element of your slide represents.

grouping and highlighting


Visual Hierarchy

When creating data-stuffed presentations for consulting projects, you’ll often find yourself with plenty of important graphs and tables that all deserve to be represented in your final deliverable. However, often times the inclusion all these elements can make for a clunky slide with no real direction on what’s important. By leveraging visual hierarchy, you can direct your viewers to exactly what their eyes should be looking at by separating and prioritizing certain key graphics. Take a look at the visual hierarchy toolkit for some strategies to do so:

visual hierarchy toolkit



This blog post has laid out many of the ways you can improve your deliverables and create clean, easy to understand presentations that your clients will appreciate. By learning about our toolkits, you’ve already taken the first steps towards becoming a master at crafting compelling visual narratives through your presentations.

If you’d like to take one more step, we welcome you to check out the accompanying podcast episode. In this episode, Daniel Wang sits down with LIDD founders Charles Fallon and David Beaudet to discuss in more detail this very same topic.

Watch the full video below:


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Well, it’s the end of the week. How are David?

I’m good. I’m good. Thank you.

I am so excited for this week’s guest.

Yeah, me too.

The great and famous Daniel Wong, also known as Danny, and unlike other guests who do not honour or properly tribute this




Said, I am going to wear a suit to this episode and I love it. Thank you Danny.

Not just a suit. You’re very welcome. Tie,

Very sharp suit.

I did it just for you guys mostly because you told me that this was mandatory. I go to the office without it and you guys were all going to be wearing suits.

I love the fact that there wasn’t even a second of you going, this doesn’t smell right. You doubled

Down on it. You

Known us for so long down.

Oh man.

How long have you known us? I mean,

I saw you in a suit recently, or at least a sports jacket.

Recently. I had a jacket on,

So I assume. Oh, okay. Maybe you




I think I’ve seen that as a full suit before as well. I think it was a photo floating.

No, I’ve never worn. Not with a tie. No.

Okay. No, not with a tie.

Oh yes, sure, sure. I have a fancy outfit.

Actually no, last time I saw you, you were in a suit as well, so

It was a wedding.


Right. Weddings. We have wedding outfits, but we’re not getting married today. So Danny, how long have we known you? You’ve been at LID for how long? I think

About six years now.

Six years. That’s amazing. For anyone who doesn’t know you are going to forever live in lid history as our first LA employee.

That is true.

And it’s pretty amazing because you had to spend a good year going to an empty office all alone. Every day.

Well, every other week. Every

Other week

You were there or someone else

Was there. We tried our best to make sure you didn’t go stir crazy, but it’s kind of like a prison sentence.

I mean the prison was two blocks from the beach.

The prison was two blocks from the beach. That was

Wasn’t that bad. It

Wasn’t that horrible.

It was a winter.


It was sunny outside. I just blown it from Montreal

I think. I don’t know. Is this public? Is everything signed? Is it all a done deal? The la

Yes, it’s

So I have a question. So Danny, when we first opened the office and you went to live in la, it was in Manhattan Beach, which remains for me. I think the loveliest part of Los Angeles. Okay.


You could say, oh, there are other neighbourhoods that are fancier, right? Where Will Smith and Jada Pinkett slap each other? That Bel Air, that’s fancier. But I think Manhattan Beach is always going to be something that as you roll down that hill towards the coast, you just feel so relaxed. And then of course we move to Century City for the youngins. They wanted to be closer to where, I dunno what hip or whatever. And now moving back, we’re moving back. But now to El Segundo, how do you feel about the move?

It makes sense. I think we’ve outgrown our current space and getting our own space will be a welcome relief.

But what about the location of El Segundo?

That makes a lot of sense. Just going back to the beach area Airport. Yeah. New York airport. It’s comfortable.

Yeah. Good restaurants.

Good restaurants as well. We

Are going to be back at Petros,

Petros and Al

And Sal. Is it open?

I’m not sure.

During Covid it fell apart, but we have our Petros, we have our Manhattan Beach posts. We’ve got a good go-to the kettle. Of course.


That’s always great for a sandwich.

Some soup, not for your health, but

Oh, right now, will you move or will you stay?

I think the transit time isn’t too different from where I am now to Central City versus El Segundo. I might add another 15 minutes. So I think in the meantime I’m going to stay in my current space, see how that works out, and eventually I will be moving somewhere. I just wait a second.

All this time we moved to Century City to get you closer to your house and you’re not telling me there was really no difference all along. We could have stayed near the beach the whole time.

No, it is because of the specific location of this new office is right off the highway, and so I don’t have to take as many service

Streets. Okay. Be a perfect Californian, right? Like the San Live Californian. How would you drive it? What would be your route?

So here’s the thing I don’t want,

Would you do San Vincente Vicente Boulevard?

I just punch into Google Maps and go where the overlays,

Where the

Tell, yeah, exactly.

So you’re not going to tell me I’m going to go down on Pico and then hook left


Okay, fine.

No, that towards all that decision making, every time I try to get clever with directions, it just ends up hurting me.

Trust the

Trust, the computer,

The software.


Actually I just met a brilliant guy who’s a PhD in artificial intelligence and software engineering and we were talking about automated mobile robots and navigation systems and he was just trying to explain to me what AI really means in that context. If you think about, my question to him was what is the difference? Why do you call it AI versus just really complicated algorithm?

And let’s take a little mobile robot and we’ll get to the main subject, but I think this is interesting. Take the mobile robot and it will have, in the case of this company, they’ll have three cameras and a LIDAR versus say other companies will have eight cameras or a car that will have eight cameras and two lidar. So three cameras and lidar, all of it collecting information about its position, but all of it with some margin of error in what it’s doing. So you have three sources of data each with a margin of error. And then you have to basically say, well, okay, based on this, this is my position. But they’re all giving you slightly conflicting positioning. And so all you can do at best is have a probabilistic idea of where you are at any point in time. So you have an uncertainty with where you are at any point in time.

And then an instruction to say, move forward five metres, 10 feet and you are to move forward 10 feet when you’re a human driver. This is all, I mean the human brain of course, amazing thing. So let’s say not any of us, especially you with your Tesla, but let’s say when we had our Tesla in the younger days when we had older cars and the steering is a perfectly aligned and the wheel one wheel’s a little bolder than the other. There’s all these compensations that we’re doing well, this AMR essentially has to do the same thing, right? It’s got to engage all sorts of systems like mechanical systems to move forward, 10 feet accelerate, decelerate, and then the wheels itself have to stay straight. But the wheels may physically, it may think it’s going straight, but the wheels are such that or the surface or whatever. And all of this has to be compensated for by four different in feeds of data that are each giving a margin of error in their reading. And he said solving that problem is not an algorithm. That’s when you’re truly in the world of artificial intelligence. What do you think?

Interesting. I’ve never heard of it, put it that way before.

Me neither. And to me it opened my whole Anyway, brilliant guy. Look forward to meeting him again soon. Anyway, Danny, we’re here to talk about what your reputation at LID is. You’ve blossomed into this genius, really that’s very strong word, but since you’re in

A suit, used that word,


Described me before, so

I’ve never used that word. Well, I’ve said I have actually, I’ve used a sentence with the word genius. It start off with he’s the of I’ve done that many times.

Yeah, that sounds familiar. No,

But you’re in a suit, so you look even smarter than normal. But you have developed this reputation at lid of being particularly talented. I just stepped down, particularly talented at finding ways of communicating data in a visual format that’s captivating and really just so immediate and clear and digestible.


A pretty impressive thing. And you’ve radically changed how all of us are working with the tools we work with to deliver results to clients and explain complicated ideas through visual representation of data. And we wanted you to get on here and give us a lesson. We don’t want trade secrets revealed because it really is to that level of quality, but of strategies and context of the whole conversation around the visual representation of data.

So expanding on that a little bit more just to cover not just the representation of data, but of also just slides and formatting in general, when you’re doing design and professional environment, it’s very different than what you’re doing as a hobby. The goal isn’t to create a nice sort of piece of art. You’re trying to solve a problem with design, the problems you’re trying to solve. They’re usually one of three things. You’re trying to reduce visual friction, highlight, reinforce your key points and communicate that the product you’re giving is a high value deliverable.

Let’s start with that first point that you just made. Reduce visual friction. I think it’s a great phrase. What do you mean exactly by that?

Make it easy to read. Make

It easy to read,

Right. This can come in really multiple forms in one situation. Well, now that it comes in multiple forms, there are many ways you can not achieve a high level of visual or I guess a low level of visual friction. One is by putting too many elements on a slide. Another is to have too few, but you should have, there’s usually a nice medium balance where you can find, okay, this makes sense. I have all the contexts. I need nothing more. And this is information I want to show, and this is how I’m highlighting it. Make it immediately obvious that if your client or audience squint their eyes a bit, they can still generally pick out what the most important detail is just off the design. So what you want design to do is to supplement your message and they design gives you visual indicators of what you should pay attention to and what you should ignore.

That’s great. I like the word friction. First of it’s an audience-centric word. If you think about writing or looking at a PowerPoint or anything, it is audience-centric thinking about the reader because the friction is what the absorber of this information is, what they received from badly communicated words, badly communicated ideas, whether that’s written or visual. One of the things I like to hammer home with people is every unnecessary word in a sentence should be eliminated. If that word doesn’t in a meaningful way, modify or qualify the meaning of the sentence, you get rid of it and you get rid of it because that extra word is a form of friction. It’s something that just makes it that much harder for the reader to absorb the material you’re presenting to them. So that when I saw you talk about visual friction, it just a light went on in my head and said, that’s an excellent way of describing what you’re saying.

And I like how you use writing as example, because in many ways I see the process to be fairly similar in the same way you’re trying to get, when you’re writing, you try to get first draught out quickly and just build off that. Usually that means you end up with a pile of words, you then try to cut down and refine. Design to me works the same way in the initial phase. You want to fail quickly, try to get as many ideas out as possible, understand what works. Then you try to develop it, you figure out the structure for it, and then you cut down and refine. A lot of people I think stop at right before they get to the refine phase and they have a chart with a lot of information that looks really cool and impressive, but it’s not very useful. It’s only when you start cutting it down that becomes more impactful and your message becomes more clear.

And back to that analogy between writing, it’s the same process. I think from what I understand, the way you work, and it’s one that I really appreciate, although fully admit my skillset, we even, I dunno. And I know I’ve gone on Reddit consulting enough to know that everybody’s like this. There are all these plugins and add-ins that we’re using. I don’t even know what they’re called. Don’t tell me because I don’t even, I like the ignorance. It means I get to delegate away all of this work. But the point is, when you are building a chart, a graph, or some sort of visual representation of data, you’re saying first let’s just dump it on the page so I can look at it. Actually, it’s a visual exercise. The exercise of creating a visual representation of data. And then as you’re chipping away at it, you’re asking yourself what each element, what value does it contribute to the overall message?


If that element is nothing, if it doesn’t add value, you get rid of it,

Right? No, exactly. And I think there’s an analogy we’ll appreciate. It’s similar to building a sculpture, a carbon out sculpture. But let’s start all the way at the beginning when you’re trying to build the data, trying to analyse that. That’s you going to the mines and digging out that block of graphite or granite, right?

No one’s sculpting in graphite. That would be the worst thing in

The world. Well, with modern art, you can sculpt anything.

By the way, do you know the difference between graphite and diamond?

I do,

Because they’re chemically, they’re the same molecule. But one is the crystalline structure is in two dimensions and the other, it’s in three dimensions. And by diamond being in three dimensions, it is the hardest material in the world. But then once you make a two dimensional material such that there’s a slippery slidey, there’s a plane or surface, that’s why it’s a pencil instead of a diamond ring anyway.

Do you consider yourself artistic in your life?

I think so. They’re definitely much better artists out there. I’m not, well,

I don’t think so, Danny.


Know we all agree.

So visual art or more?

Yeah. So I have a bit of an unfair advantage here. I’ve been playing with graphic editing software since I was in I think the sixth grade. And so I have a bit more experience just thinking about things visually that was more, less from a productive approach. That’s more, Hey, I’m just trying to do art. And it was only after


What do you mean?

I’m just curious. That’s an interesting thing. I mean, it’s just interesting to understand what did you love about it?

I can’t really draw off my hands, but I just don’t have enough dexterity, but I could visually understand what I wanted to show. So when I realised, oh, I can just point and click and keep going back and erase things and add layers and adjust it to how I like after the fact, I was like, okay, cool. Maybe this is a tool where I can use or a medium I can use to express myself, which was what I wanted to do when I first started doing any sort of design work. Afterwards, I think towards college, I started volunteering for some school clubs where I would just do some graphic design for them. At one point, actually, those street banners you see on, let’s say peel, for example, a banner on the street signs the lamp posts. So I had done designed for some McGill engineering Association and they’re holding a big conference, some

Beer festival or something.

Yeah, yeah. No, I think it was something different. It was a little bit more productive. But I ended up doing a design that was just all on peel for a while. And so I was able to get a copy of that as well. And I have it rolled up sitting in my apartment somewhere. Do

You have a picture of it still

Not readily

Available. You get it so that we’ll get Jeremy to put it up on. I would love to see it. We can link it to this podcast.

That’s true. I’ll dig it up.

All right. That’d be great. So let’s just remember first you start off with a very audience-centric philosophy


Reduce visual friction. Second, you’re saying the way you would approach the design is like a sculptor or whatever, but the point is you splatter it all out and then you’re in a process of chipping it away to some sort of minimum represent and minimum, like you said, minimum doesn’t mean hardly nothing. It means only what is necessary to communicate the message.


That you are very, very careful to remove any extraneous, any extraneous data or representation of data. Meaning it’s not just data. It could be like an arrow here and you’re like, why is that there? That doesn’t really,


So then there’s another analogy to writing, which is a rule you told us in a presentation in the past, kill your darlings.

Well, which I learned from you.

Well, you didn’t learn well, okay, but I learned it from Stephen King who was just talking to aspiring writers and was saying that oftentimes you’ll write this beautiful sentence and you’re so proud of its construction and how it sounds on the ear, but it absolutely contributes nothing to what you’re trying to achieve. You got to kill it. And it rings true to me. I mean, we have, if you think about even the early days, but even to today, the tortured part of a proposals, the background section and how often we’ll say all this stuff and it sounds, it’s quasi marketing and because you’re not being audience-centric, right? You’re not recognising that no one wants to read this crap.


You might be very proud to say, lid is this or whatever, but get rid of it. It isn’t helping your case by wasting more of this person’s time or burdening that reader with more thinking


Get to your message the least thinking they can do the better. And that’s what you’re talking about.

Yeah, absolutely. And on that kill drawing space, and this is something that was hard for me to overcome, especially when it comes to anything visual where you could spend you


Of it. Lot of time this looks fantastic and it could look great,


If it doesn’t serve your overall story, you got to get rid of it. I don’t remember who said this, but there’s a quote that says you should be kind to people but ruthless with the product. And that’s sort of the approach. I like to take time.

That’s a great, you’d think that’s a Steve Jobs kind of thing to say

That might be

Kind to people, but I think he said it the reverse. He said, be Ruth is to people be kind to product.

Not fair. Not fair. That’s really a great, it reminds me of a Margaret DeLauer, one of the great university professors of my academic life, and she once said to me, she said, Charles, what you have to learn to do is divorce yourself from your work. If you get a bad grade, a bad grade does not mean you yourself are the worst human being ever, or the dumbest student or the, it’s just a reflection of how you did on this piece of work. And it’s sort of that same thing. You’ve got to divorce yourself from the work product and only in divorcing yourself from the work product only being willing to kill your darlings,


You achieve actually consistent good work.

Right? It’s

A great idea, Danny.

Right. It’s not all binary and everything you do. It’s not like once you achieve a certain point, you’re never going to make a bad design ever. I put up plenty of,

Oh no, we see it all the time. A lot of stuff you do is horrible. Every once

In a while I go through an old deck, I’m like, oh, this isn’t great. Anyway, that could be a function of time or just me not being able to figure out

Anything better. I’m so sympathetic. I am. I mean, I know exactly what you mean. I’m 50 years old that sometimes I put things together. Oh god, I wish I could hide that.

Yeah, but I don’t know. You fail enough times and you kind of understand where the pitfalls are and what to avoid.

Yeah. Now the last thing is you have your slide formatting toolkit.


What the hell does that mean?

Just simple and general concepts about formatting things to really just help you clean up your slides or just any sort of data work. First thing is consistency. There’s so many elements to this that we could talk for hours about and we’ll talk for an hour about tomorrow.

Lucky I did not sign up for that group. But

It’s things like making sure your header, font sizes are still the same, everything’s the same colour. You’re using different font styles. Just needs to make, just really just help it reinforce pattern recognition,

Right? That friction that comes that when the audience is looking and this slide doesn’t look or this slide doesn’t look like this slide doesn’t look like this slide. Right? I mean I know especially in the old days, it’s a lot better when the PowerPoint started giving you that red dashed alignment.

Oh, we added that in. That’s not an automatic thing. That’s


I added that in as a template thing.

No, no, it’s not talking about the, it’s just a blank. Microsoft, I put two pictures together and I want to make them it’s clippings. But that changed the world for me. Absolutely. Because that was my biggest challenge. And you know how horrible it is exactly that. It’s one of those things about slide to slide to slide friction. So


Saying a, develop a consistency across the slides.

Make sure your headers across all the slides are in the exact same place. Not slightly different

As if like old fashioned animation. If I could flip the pages at high speed, that should almost look static,


It’s just a blur of text and images in the same sections. So that’s the first thing about in my toolkit. Second thing is really thinking about grouping a hierarchy. There’s a lot of visual elements which can include text tables, objects, images, anything. You have to think careful about how you want to group these into similar ideas or similar points messages and how you’re going to highlight certain groups or elements of the group. And that is how you carve the message of your slide. And just approaching each slide after you’ve done the initial data dump with that mentality has helped me at least a lot in understanding how to better communicate my messages.

I think this is really interesting. It’s funny, this podcast would be aided by examples of this kind of stuff, but I think you’ve covered everything we want to talk about. We want to remember, make it audience-centric. Your goal is to reduce, think about the word of friction. This is a company of engineers and the constantly growing audience for this podcast for mostly engineers. And so the idea of friction, the thing that thwarts everything, trying to slide, slide on a surface, the counterbalance to a force that friction. I’m a little distracted. I put my phone on the chair and it’s been buzzing like crazy for the last two

Minutes. But do not disturb.


You have to put do not disturb.

I don’t know how to do that. You’ll have to show me. I put it on vibrate. That’s the worst in this circumstance. Anyway. Yeah, visual fiction, the idea of killing your darlings of approaching it by starting, splatter it all out and then generally work your way by chipping away what is unnecessary. And then lastly, thinking about consistency across slides and the visual grouping and hierarchy.

Yes. So visual structure,

I think that’s wonderful.

Well, on my part, I did

Exercise the reduction of friction by not participating in this podcast. But because I do agree that everything that was said is actually quite important, especially for a firm like I am very sensitive to it.

Well that’s it. You’ve always been very sensitive

To this. Yeah, extremely. I never made the effort or do not claim that I can’t. Like you organise it and explain it. And that’s why I was asking, are you an artist or do you have an artistic side? Because I don’t. And some people are, you’re not artistic, but you understand spatial organisation to me, and that’s where I can sometimes disagree with my wife. The analogy is how to place furniture in a room, how you place stuff on the slide. Sometimes it’s just doesn’t make sense. You cannot.

Yeah. Well that sounds like a debate. You should be willing to lose David.

But I think actually I have a

Sense for it. It doesn’t matter. I feel that I know how to load a dishwasher the best. I feel that I can slot a fridge the best. Of course there are some battles you just accept that you lose.


Called peace in the family.

It’s funny, you talk about the dishwasher, you want to get someone angry, at least in my family is move one thing they put in the dishwasher and they hear you.

That’s just one person in your family. Yes. One person.

Yes. One specific


One very specific that I love dearly. Do

You not of the other members of your family dearly.

Yes. But they don’t care about.

But they don’t care where things go in the dishwasher. To them it’s full. They don’t care. Yeah.

And I’ll put just one last quote, famous quote. It’s Einstein who said simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and I think it does apply here when you talk about all these points here. Is that how Yeah, simplicity will get a message across rather than try to be too fancy.

And we’ll counter with another quote, budget,

Grade. Oh, I now realise who Just

Explain like I’m five.

Alright, well Danny, it is the end of the week. We’ve got to move on. By the way, you’re here almost the entire company’s here, which are really exciting events. Which is kind of weird because if we are honest, this is being filmed before the event. But because we say it’s the end of the week, we’ve got to pretend that the event just took place. So it was a great event, wasn’t it?



Was it probably the best ever?


So excited

For my weekend to start right after this.


Let’s go.

All right.


Let’s build world-class infrastructure together.

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