March 20, 2009

Images are not fluff

I've heard this several times from clients who've come to me for help with their slide shows: "My boss/conference organizer/client wants me to take all the images out of the PowerPoint. He says they're 'fluff.'"

This comment always irritates me, but what else should I expect? Long ago, in a land far, far away, someone decided that a presentation could not be taken seriously unless it was accompanied by a PowerPoint chock full of text, bullet points, charts, data and citations. Someone decided that we can't call it "work" unless we wish we were somewhere else.

Because images, colors and visual stimulation are okay for little kids, but once we're grown up, there is too much danger of enjoyment breaking out if we don't follow the rules of serious presentations. And we all know a presentation is no good if we're enjoying ourselves too much.

So let me post again some resources on making your PowerPoint more effective with more images and less text:

New research about PowerPoint titles

Why you can't read slides and listen to a speaker at the same time

Is the font on your PowerPoint big enough?

Jennifer Kammeyer's Comm Comm blog on PowerPoint research

Laura Bergell's post "Slides are not handouts"

Cliff Atkinson's book, Beyond Bullet Points

Garr Reynolds' book, Presentation Zen

And let me remind you that the best way to help your audience retain information is to serve as many learning styles as you can. The more you can do to reach your audience members in the ways they learn best, the more likely they are to remember your message.

Here are some resources on learning styles:

Learning Styles and Preferences

Learning Styles Explained

Learning Styles and Strategies

And for fun, here's a post from Chris Spagnuolo's Edgehopper blog about librarians reading to children at story time, and what you can learn from them.

The way we learn as children is still valid once we're adults. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the more statistic- and text-laden your PowerPoint is, the more effective it will be. Sure, you'll be taken seriously, but your audience will be bored out of their minds. And they'll remember very little.

Others may call it "fluff," but images and other kinds of visual, auditory, verbal and physical stimulation will keep your audience focused on you and your message, not using your presentation for every child's all-time favorite part of school: nap time.

On The Everything Page you'll find everything you need to build visibility, credibility and influence through engaging presentations that move your participants into action: freebies, low-cost products and courses, and 1:1 coaching!

6 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Lisa - thanks for the informative post and great links. I don't think it makes sense to debate the fact that communicating visually is crucial for effective presentations, it's been a long time since I've heard the "pack in the text" argument thankfully. However I do think that using images to enhance and illustrate the presenter's points [spoken and on-screen] takes a great deal of skill.

Unfortunately, we've all been in meetings where the use of images has been abused. Gratuitous images, poorly formatted and/or designed images, overloaded or inaccurate information graphics, etc. can numb, confuse or even worse, drive the audience to aversion.

Thanks again for the goodness here,


Lisa Braithwaite said...

You are so right, Cody. First we have to convince speakers that there is validity in images, and then we need to teach them the right way to use them!

I see lots of slides with bullet points AND tiny out-of-focus images and clipart that make the slide worse, not better.

Thanks for your contribution!

Anonymous said...

Visual aids are effective; indeed they are the the scaffolding upon which we hinge our words.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Catherine, I love how you phrased this. Lovely!

David & Anna Smith said...


Excellent points - a great Blog as well!

I have added multimedia slide shows with still images, video clips, music and sound to my travel and digital photography PowerPoint presentions (using third party software - not PowerPoint!!) in speaking engagements around the world.

They keep asking us back!

I coach others on this, give me a shout anytime!

David Smith

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, David!

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