Word clouds captivate. They show concepts in ways that allow our brains — already saturated with information — to take in, quickly, the relative importance of the components. Proportion, font, color, orientation: they can all add to that clarity.

For presentations, I sometimes use a word cloud to clarify, or emphasize, a point. It’s effective for summarizing analysis. A word cloud can illustrate data in a way that bullet points, or even a graphic, can’t.

Word clouds, though, have to be used judiciously in reports or presentations. Overuse dilutes their impact.

Still, I think word clouds can grip an audience and hold their attention as they take in, and mull and process, the information displayed.

Wordle is one free resource for making them. This site also allows users to share or print the word clouds they create. Or, to open them in a new window and, say, take a screen shot to embed in a document. It takes some practice to get the layout, font and look of a word cloud you’re building to appear clear and engaging. But, after making a few word clouds, the knack comes and making them is not too hard. With Wordle, a word cloud can be inserted into a document or presentation, such as Prezi (which is what I use now, having abandoned Power Point.)

For fun, I created a word cloud for the phrase Social Media and inserted it at the end of this post. It includes most of the descriptions and functions I associate with the term. What words would you add?

I’m eager to hear your thoughts, including ideas about using a word cloud in a client or business presentation.

This word cloud shows just some of the aspects and functions of social media