Add a pictorial pop to your presentation!
5 ways to grab your audience with visuals
by Catherine Ahern
Anyone who has been forced to sit through a text-only PowerPoint presentation knows how mind-numbing they can be. Using visuals to break up text, illustrate stories and highlight important data is imperative for grabbing—and maintaining—your audience’s attention. Make your next speech more memorable with visuals from these categories:
- Photography. It’s cliché but true: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Include some slides of full-sized images that illustrate a story or message from your speech. Best bet: Use your own photography. Not only will you be safe from violating any copyright laws, but you’ll also be able to use a unique photograph that represents exactly what you want. Other options: Purchase stock photography. Use images available under the Creative Commons license from sites like Flickr.com. Contact a photographer directly and ask for permission to use an image in your presentation. Determine whether an image is available to you under the “fair use” clause of U.S. copyright law. (Stanford University has a good explanation of what that means.) Remember to always include an attribution, and never assume you are free to use any image you find on the Internet. You can land yourself in legal trouble for copyright infringement, especially if you are speaking to a large audience or posting your presentation online.
- Comics. As with photography, you have to be careful about respecting the copyright of comics. Most of the well-known comics, such as Garfield or The Far Side, are copyrighted and not free to use. You can request permission from the copyright holder, and often you can purchase a comic strip to use in a presentation. However, there are a few comics released under the Creative Commons license, so those are free to use in many cases.
- Graphs or charts. Skip complicated graphs and charts that take a lot of time to decipher. Instead, focus on one key piece of data. Also consider which type of graph or chart best represents your point. If you are using Excel to create your visual, you have many options: column, bar, pie, line, scatter, donut and more. Experiment with them and choose the one that makes your data easiest to understand for the audience.
- Video. Embed a short video to grab your audience’s attention. A segment between 30 seconds and four minutes works best. Again, it’s ideal if you can use your own video so that you can control the content and avoid copyright issues. However, as with all visuals, there are instances where “fair use” applies, but the segment must be less than 10% of the original video or less than three minutes, whichever is shorter.
- Internet memes. If you want to include visual humor but can’t find a free comic that works for your material, consider using an Internet meme instead. An Internet meme is an image or concept that has spread via the internet. They grow in popularity because they are funny and easy to adapt. Read a post that I wrote for the American Speaker Blog that includes three especially presentation-worthy Internet memes.
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