Every picture tells a story. Or, as a German saying goes: “A picture tells more than thousand words”. That’s true and that’s why I use pictures for most of my presentations. Pictures do tell a story and a picture is way easier to remember than any kind of text. Plus, it just makes your presentation nicer to look at, more interesting to follow, and simply easier to access and grasp. So please, use them! You should just consider the following three rules:
1. Select pictures of good quality: What do I mean by that? Well, your pictures should simply have a professional, high-quality look and feel. Just to make this crystal-clear: Microsoft clip arts do NOT fall into this category! MS clip arts are a pain in the ass and to be avoided by all means. They are the equivalent to ties or socks with Mickey Mouse or dinosaurs prints and simply ridiculous. MS clip arts are evil.
I prefer actual photographs. Those photographs should not look like your little brother took them with his cell phone camera. Those photographs should look like they could be published in the New York Times or on the web pages of Time magazine.
Where do you get such pictures? A surprisingly good source for high-quality pictures is the clip art archive of MS Office. No, I am not kidding, don’t be disturbed by the name. Clip Arts are the last thing we are looking for (did I mention that I don’t like them?), but apart from disgusting Clip Arts, this archive also has an impressive stock of good-looking photographs. Simply click on “Insert”, then “Online Pictures”, then enter the topic you are looking for in the first search box (“Office.com Clip Art”). You must be online to get satisfying search results and MS Office does not find any good results if the search item is too abstract, but it is always a good start. And, best of all, it’s free and there are no copyright issues.
This takes us to the next source: Google. Of course you can find millions of pictures with Google image search, but please be aware that most of the things you find there will be protected by copyright. While this won’t be a big issue when you use it privately, it can get quite serious if you get caught using pictures protected by copyright for professional purposes. Plus, the quality of the pictures you find on Google is very inconsistent, so you need to take some care to pick the really good ones.
A third source for pictures are online archives like Shutterstock (Link). Here, you will find tons of pictures for every topic and purpose in good quality, if you are willing to pay for them .
And last but not least, if you work for a bigger company (especially a consulting company), it is quite likely that your company has got its own image archive.
2. Consistency is key: I can’t say this often enough: Whatever you do in Powerpoint, consistency is key. Of course, this also applies to pictures. When you use a colored photo on one slide, don’t use a black and white one on the next slide. When you use graphic images, stick to it and don’t switch to photographs on the next slide. When you have three messages on your slide, underline all of them with a picture or none, but not one or two.
3. Pictures must make sense: It seems to go without saying, but honestly, I stopped counting how often I’ve seen pictures that just made me think: “????” A picture of a person in a car? On a slide about strategic HR management with no relation to cars, the automotive industry or even engineering? What the %§$&/? Maybe someone had some weird thoughts in his mind about “sitting in the driver’s seat” or something, but what do I know? When you have a slide about strategy, use a picture of chessboard. When you have a slide about goals and targets, use a picture of a bull’s eye. When you have a slide about HR, use a picture with people on it, shaking hands or discussing something in a collegial atmosphere. Use pictures that directly connect to the content of your slide. Be bold. When people have to think long and hard about the meaning of your picture, it’s the wrong picture.
Check the following examples: