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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The next time you’re putting together a presentation, ask yourself whether a slide can be replaced with a picture. If you can get your main point across with a picture instead a chart, bullet point list or block of text, do so. Pictures are engaging and memorable. Charts and text are boring and forgettable. – Levi Smith

Many of us have heard or read that overloading presentations with text is poor design. Nobody really wants you to “present” to them by just reading words off of slides.

The best presentations are often high on memorable visual imagery, supplemented by the occasional bullet list or short sentence. These are delivered by speakers who bring the images to life while holding the attention of, and teaching, the viewer.

Not only is this advice that you will find repeated by many good presenters, it is also backed by learning science. In this video, “Multimedia Learning Theory” (as developed by University of California Professor Richard Mayer) is discussed. I found this highly enlightening. Many presenters will combine text and images and then speak about them, but Mayer explains how this results in cognitive overload. Images alone, with verbal explanation are more effective for learning.

So again … we should really ease up on the text.

Easier said than done. I could use some help here.

Okay, so you get it. Better use of images, less use of text, and your PowerPoint files and lessons can be improved. A lot.

But it’s not that easy. You could use some guidance (so could I!). I spent a of time looking and reading, and here’s some useful advice I’ve found.

In his article, Try speaking with pictures instead of words, Levi Smith shares some practical tips, like the following (check out the full article for more good ideas):

  • Use images that the audience can relate to or are familiar with.
  • Use high resolution images. The images should be crisp and lively at screen resolution, not dull or pixilated.
  • By using compfight, you can quickly search for flickr images and filter for those that have a creative common license (so they can be shared with permission, if that is a requirement)

Another good source I found is the article, Telling Your Story With Words and Images, by Lorelle VanFossen. When working to find good images to help illustrate your talking points, Lorelle advises that you consider the following:

  1. What are you trying to say?
  2. What is the point of this picture?
  3. Does it add to the story?
  4. Does it subtract from the story?
  5. Is the point really evident?

“When you know the answers to the questions, choosing the right images … helps you tell the story while using enough words to fill in the rest of the blanks.” She also advises that you ask yourself, “Do you have the right balance between images and words? Balance is critical.”

The article, Make Your Presentation “Pop” in Five Minutes, by Kieran Chadha, goes so far as to advise that you,

“Remove any full sentences of text from your slide. Ideally, replace all the text with images or shapes that tell the same story. If you need to use text, it should be keywords – perhaps in boxes or shapes – that animate in one at a time. Holding back information in this way allows you to control how the audience takes in your story.”

Of course, when you exchange text for images, you will probably have more work to do in order to be prepared to deliver your talk. You will need to think it through more, maybe make notes, and practice more if you are going to deliver this in a live format. If, on the other hand, you are using a slide deck to voice over and create learning content, that is a bit less challenging, as you can read content from a script you develop (or record in small bites and build content out gradually, as I often like to do).

More fun with images

Of course, you can also do more fun things with images in PowerPoint, but be sure not to get carried away with them. In the article, 10 Pretty Awesome Things You Can do With PowerPoint, I share some tips about using animations with images, which can add some fun and pizzazz to your presentations.

While searching out the content above, I also found this article, 5 Stunning PowerPoint SmartArt Features You Never Knew, which has some cool ideas about how to do some neat things with images that you create with PowerPoint’s SmartArt function. Another creative angle on balancing images and text can be to turn text into images using WordArt, or by just getting creative with interesting fonts in large sizes!

One last tip … look for opportunities to use imagery to drop in some appropriate humor if you can! For example, I’ve used this outstanding “meme” image (“the success kid”) in a few presentations and it never fails to get a laugh.

Well, there you have it … lots of ideas for how to move away from boring text-laden slides to memorable image-drive content that inspires your delivery and results in a much better viewer/learner experience!

We’d love to hear your ideas about using images instead of text! Have you been successful with this approach or struggled with it? How do you find good images? What do you do to develop and remember your talking points? Tell us about it!

Creative Commons licensed image source

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In Week 11 of the Try-a-Tool-a-Week Challenge we checked out ClassDojo. As with many of the fun free tools we’ve been checking out, the feedback has been quite positive. K-12 teachers use ClassDojo to encourage students with positive feedback, make it easy to communicate with parents, and save time!

I could write more about it, but it’s so much better to hear it straight from our reader’s … teachers who have commented on the ClassDojo challenge page and provided enthusiastic and informative feedback!

Teachers Share Their Love for ClassDojo

“When I saw this app posted, I was elated!

I have taught students enrolled in our Teacher Ed. Preparation Program how to implement this app in their classroom since the app was released in August 2011!

The avatars are perfect for any grade level, Pre-K – 12th grade. The reports are visual reminders for students and parents – easily shared during parent conferences, class discussion (with the group reports), the “ding” reminds students of their monitored behavior, with FERPA issues the app makes it easy to “show” students their “award” on a cell screen without revealing the information to the entire class. , the easy access codes for parents and student access make communication between home and school easy and clear. Additionally, the reports make is easy to maintain comments in the event of a behavioral referral. The ease of classroom setup makes it the “darling” of teacher friendly apps! Class Dojo continually improves their app for the better! And the opportunity to share an idea or suggestion for improvement is a click away! With immediate feedback enhancing its likeability factor.

Class Dojo – its the ONE!

Thank you!”

– Ilna Colemere


“Magnificent application! No words can express the versatility of the tool! Above all it’s free and teachers love free tools.

It helps teachers to manage the class with the click of a button and gives all the info needed. Parents accounts can be created so that progress can be tracked from home as well.

The tool promotes motivation, positive behaviour, shares information with colourful and not so colourful (LOL) avatars and graphics.”

– Carmen Degabriele


“What a great app to share with teachers for classroom management. We are always looking forward ways to tie behavior to home….. awesome! Can’t wait to share, especially with our K-3 teachers!”

– Mary


“I LOVE THIS APP! I have been using Class Dojo since January of this year and it has transformed the behavior and communication in my classroom. When I introduced it, I had the students all create their own avatars to get them excited about the program. The students work to earn 50 points and they get a prize every time they hit the target. At the end of each day, we look at the class report and discuss what went well and what we can work on. The parents are also very diligent about checking the reports and continuing the conversation at home. Another teacher in my building uses it to track the class behavior rather than individual behaviors (kind of like a digital marble jar), and has also found some success.”

Jenifer Hollander

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