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 of 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:
- What are you trying to say?
- What is the point of this picture?
- Does it add to the story?
- Does it subtract from the story?
- 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