One picture is worth a thousand bullets

Several recent articles have discussed some PowerPoint Best Practices to help you avoid inflicting ‘Death by PowerPoint’ on your audiences. You may have even added a few new or different tools to your Presenter Tool Kit as a result. Here’s another one.

Yes … a picture is worth a thousand words – or, in the case of PowerPoint – a thousand bullet points. And a great picture is worth even more. We humans are visual learners. Much of what is stored in our long-term memory got in there through visual stimulus. Of the three levels of communication – words, tone of voice and visual – the most effective and memorable is the visual – your slides, if you use them properly. Ironically, the least effective slides have only words, yet most presentations include slide after slide of bullet points. Pictures and charts are more effective, but used much less. Go figure.

To maximize harnessing the Power of Pictures, follow these Best Practice suggestions for doing them right:

  • Choose them right. Make sure the picture adds value to your message and the purpose of the slide. Don’t just add one to add one. And don’t break the law by using copyrighted material without prior written permission. Even if everyone does it and you think you’ll never get caught, it’s still wrong and audiences know it is. Generic copyright-free picture services are fine – if the content work for your needs. Minimize clip art, especially anything cute, unless you’re selling Teddy Bears.
  • Compose them right. If you include lots of shots of people, be sensitive to their appropriate balance. They should reflect the demographics of your audience, your employees or your customers, depending on the message of the slide.
  • Design them right. You can insert a picture into a slide with text or overlay the text on a full frame picture. In either case, use good layout, element balance and contrast range for the text. A properly designed slide combining a picture with text is 10 times more time-consuming to create than the text slide alone, but 100 times more effective. You do the math.

So, make your slides memorable and effective with pictures that are worth more than a thousand bullet points. Your audiences deserve nothing less.