A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

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There’s nothing like 77 bathtubs to give you a quick idea of what “7.7 cubic meters of water” looks like. A friend recently sent me a link to this post on the current drought situation in California. Regardless of your political standpoint on Gov. Jerry Brown’s response to the drought, there’s no denying the author hits her message home by using clear pictures.

This made me think about the power of the “P” in SHARPs: Pictures and Visuals.

Using a visual in your presentation is one of the simplest ways to make your message clear and sticky. (Bonus sticky points if the picture is also human scale – like these bathtubs.)

Keep in mind these three things when you’re using a visual (we like to call them the Three Bs):

  1. Make them big. If you’re using a picture or video clip, you want to make sure it’s big enough for even the people in the back row to see it. Or, you can give out hand-held visuals or props to each listener. We went to a church service once where the pastor gave each person a small, plastic, bright green shovel as a way to remember a point in his sermon about digging. Whether you make your visual big or you make it individualized, just make sure that everyone can see it.
  1. Make them bold. The bolder the visual, the quicker your audience will grasp your message. That’s why the bathtub picture is so effective – it’s hard not to immediately recognize what 7.7 cubic meters of water looks like when you’re staring at a picture of 77 bathtubs. This is why memes have become so popular in the culture of social media – they’re bold and they make a point within seconds.
  1. Make them basic. After all, you don’t want to distract your listener from your overall presentation. A presenter at Google’s annual developer conference once planted red and green glow sticks underneath the seats of each audience member. Then, at a designated point in his presentation, he had audience members vote by holding up the green or red glow stick. Basic, yet effective.

How have you seen pictures or visuals used effectively in a presentation?

 

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