Matthias Poehm, a political candidate in Switzerland, has denounced PowerPoint. Poehm claims that PowerPoint is a communicative crutch that stifles effective public speaking. However, it is possible to keep audiences engaged and informed. The visual potential of PowerPoint should be appreciated and utilized. When visual imagery is integrated effectively, audiences are interested and informed rather than passive and bored. Greater productivity is the result.
Visual imagery is the most potent means for imparting information and making concepts understandable. The following eight tips can help a presenter use PowerPoint’s full potential in regard to both text and image. When these rules are followed and the presenter understands the material, the Swiss politician’s concerns can be put to rest.
1. Don’t use clip art. Clip art and canned imagery insults the audience and makes the overall presentation appear shallow. Instead, incorporate engaging imagery. When an audience focuses on relevant, interesting visuals, they listen to your words while allowing the creative sides of their brains to remain focused upon carefully chosen, relevant imagery. Good presenters use good imagery. An example is a presentation about United States cultural values that was created for an Indian corporation. In order to engage the audience, paintings by Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, two iconic American painters were shown. This facilitated a constructive discussions about US and Indian culture. The success of these sessions is due to carefully chosen imagery.
2. Where can you find engaging imagery? Tip number two is to become familiar with and utilize sources in the public domain. Wikimedia Commons is one source where you will find free-use imagery, ranging from Renaissance paintings to photographs uploaded by the public. Consider utilizing your own original imagery – if you don’t feel you are an artist, find a colleague who is–collaboration leads to constructive work relationships.
3. Allow imagery to organize your presentation rather than relying upon dense text. This helps in minimizing text – when you know your material, then seeing the visual image on the screen allows you to speak naturally to the topic while staying on focus. Using text as a crutch can make your presentation appear canned and superficial. When your thoughts and ideas are embedded in images, you speak naturally while remaining confident that you are on topic. Consider this example of a location themed slide – this slide can be interpreted as a company having its branch office in 3 different countries and USA as its main office. Each branches offers different services or works at a different time zone. This allows you, the presenter to explain the concept with compelling visuals rather than just boring text.
4. Give preference to image over text. Instead of beating people over the head with dense text, try utilizing a single image on one page. If the presenter knows and understands the material, the image is enough to impart the idea. When utilizing text, use a neutral color sans-serif font on a black background – this combination is the most readable, even at great distances. Place your images on a black background – this allows them to stand out.
5. Be conservative when utilizing text. Use simple bullet points to keep you and your audience on track. Do not give them complex sentences in the slides—such information should be presented orally. Lines of text should be limited to six words, and slides should be limited to four or five lines. When you violate this rule, you’ll bore your audience. Again, engaging imagery allows you to keep your audience and emphasize your points.
6. Know your audience. What visual materials will engage them? Find images that are on topic, particularly ones they might not be familiar with – seeing fresh images allows the audience to remain intrigued. They will learn by viewing the images in tandem with hearing the words of the presenter.
7. Be bold and be creative. If you’ve ever taken a course in art appreciation or art history, you know that the instructor must build an interesting lecture of core concepts around a visual image. An art historian presents an image and develops a lecture around it. Text and image are united to keep an audience engaged and informed. The more bold and creative you are, the more interesting and effective your presentation will be. Imagery is your ally–if you select intriguing images, your presentation will be successful. On the other hand, clip art and dense text will ensure that the audience is bored.
8. Humanize the corporate world with imagery. One of the chief complaints among employees is that they work in a sterile atmosphere. When your heart is in the content of your presentation and you support it with well-selected imagery, you change the daily work rhythm. You bring something interesting, fun, and informative to material that might otherwise be dull or ignored. Further, you show that you have done your homework and that you care about the topic. Quite simply, good presentations are good imagery.