Layering: An Effective Way to Communicate Your Message

Imagine sitting through a presentation where slide after slide has nothing but tons of text crammed in. Fine! That may be exaggerating things a bit, but you get the idea.

Coupled with reduced attention, sorting through the word pile and making sense of it can be a frustrating experience.

The key takeaway for budding presenters – love your content, romance the words, but focus on providing your audience with byte-sized information. Layered information covers complex points and yet remains palatable to your audience.

How do you reduce the word overload without diluting the content? One way is to simply add visual aids. But that’s doesn’t always work, when your topic involves lots of data and statistics.

If you’ve never heard of layering before, it’s time to pay attention.

How to use layers in your presentations

Does your slide deck  use a narrative format with a beginning, middle and an ending? If so, then you’ve already been using a linear layering pattern.

Let’s say you’re a food consultant and want to impress upon small bakeries the importance of food sanitation. You want to reveal the broad message of a clean kitchen. Layering involves breaking this concept down into the 3-4 most important points; which might be food handling, food storage, equipment specific tasks and cleanup systems. Showing how these points interact with one another is also a critical part of this process; so in this instance, you may want to identify the negative effects of skipping any of these points.

To create relevance and present multiple messages, you’ve got to create an overview of salient points, show relationships between connected elements, and provide comparisons across elements. Layering helps you manage a complex topic, break it down to specifics, and reveal it in a certain order.

You can distribute information into ways:

Two-dimensional layers

With this technique you separate and group information into layers that are revealed one after the after through movements within your content. You reveal these layers in linear or non-linear patterns.

  • Linear layering 

Follow linear patterns to tell a story in the 3-part format or provide a sequential narrative. Each smaller sequence can be part of a bigger one.

  • Non-linear layering 

Use this method to reinforce relationships between different content elements. With hierarchal layering, you build a parent-child connection between elements. When information is based on outside elements, use parallel layering to establish connections. Web layering helps you present information with different internal connections within itself by further linking it to outside or other elements.

Three-dimensional layering

This technique separates and assembles information through multiple layers built on top of each other. Your audience sees related content at the same time. Use this method to illustrate concepts and to present details.

  • Opaque layers

If you want to show additional information within a layer, use opaque layers in the form of pop-ups or highlights.

  • Transparent layers

To combine existing information with new concepts, use transparent layers. Build successive layers in one slide starting with basic facts and adding fresh layers of relevant data and statistics.

Forget the old slide-by-slide presentation method. Use layers to create seamless and smooth transition between different parts and categories of information.

Does your visual presentation represent a slide show or a documentary?