A PowerPoint Tutorial.

Step Away From The image!

Images are good at portraying ideas, and for providing bite sized summaries. Often, however, people generalise this usefulness to all situations and add images top their slides that turn out to be, well, redundant.

Take a presentation I saw recently as an example. A very senior executive at a very large organisation gave a presentation that commenced with a picture of a motorcycle "driving" onto a slide. The executive began by talking about the "driving forces of change" and the "high octane performance" of his organization. You can see the motorcycle's "driving" onto the screen as symbolising the ideas the presenter was trying to convey.

But did that image help the audience in any way? Were members of the audience unable to grasp the concept of "driving forces" and "high performance" without an image of a motorcycle? What do you think? Clue: the members audience were not in kindergarten.

If you want to bore and/or alienate your audience, I would recommend using trite images like this, that add no value to your presentation. If you want to make your audience feel patronised, create your presentation in the form of a child's picturebook, with each slide illustrated by a picture from that slide's "story".

The presenter in question was an enthusiastic motorcyclist and had selected an image that sparked his enthusiasm. He chose to use the image as a motif, or recurring theme, relating the topic of motorcycles to the company's strategic issues such as "driving change." Displaying the image during his talk made him feel comfortable with standing in front of a group. As he unlocked his passion for motorcycles, he related it to the passion he has for corporate strategy.

Do you see any problems with this?

He has neglected to think about his audience's frame of reference. Motorcycles are his passion, not his audience's. A motorcycle motoring onto a slide may symbolise "driving change" in his mind, but that might not be the case in the minds of his audience members. All too often, presenters generalise their experience to represent that of others, instead of inspecting the frames of reference of the audience. Will the audience appreciate the significance of the images you use, to the same degree that you do? What might they appreciate more? Does the image add anything of value to the presentation?

There are many parallels between using images in PowerPoint, and using images in blog posts.