That said, it can be time well spent ... if you are using PowerPoint correctly, making images and graphics the focus rather than text.
PowerPoint is misused by the VAST majority of corporate users. Edward Tufte (described by The New York Times as "the Leonardo da Vinci of Data") believes that PowerPoint is responsible for degrading the effectiveness of corporate presentations. In his words:
"Rigid slide-by-slide heirarchies, indifferent to context, slice and dice the evidence into arbitrary compartments; producing and anti-narrative with choppy continuity."
In a sense, we are using a linear, hierarchical, left-brained format to communicate a layered right-brained narrative.
It's clear to me now that learning to utilize the right-brained big picture tools of story and metaphor is a requisite to excellent communication.
Finding the right image to capture a visual metaphor or to tell a story can be a tricky business. That's why I was very interested in an article in the April issue of Business 2.0, titled, "You Ought To Be In Pictures." The article focuses on the business of licensing images and lists several image sources.
There are "The Goliaths":
Google's image search is a great resource for images but one has to be careful about violating copyright laws, especially for corporate presentations. Also, Google can be far more time consuming as the images are usually not labeled or tagged with the searcher in mind.
In other words, if you are looking for the image of a female archer, you are likely to use "female archer" or "woman archer" as your search string. However, Jill, an avid archer might post dozens of high-quality images of herself practicing archery on her personal web site and never use those words to label her photo files.
The sites that license the use of their images are incented to tag them so that they can be found easily. Hence, searches using the paid sites can often be less time-consuming.
When I work with intact teams, I coach clients to create a pool of images that each team-member can draw from. This can help to cut down the amount of time spent on searching for images. In addition, it encourages conversations about how various images, stories and metaphors are being employed. "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." said Pablo Picasso. You SHOULD be stealing ideas from colleagues, if you want to truly master the art of communication.
I've made much personal effort to make sure I had access to all the images that we at The Henderson Group have compiled over the years. Having a good recall of these images has often saved me from time-consuming image searches.
This is an important personal practice that can benefit your team-members as well. Some final tips:
- Thinks in terms of story and metaphor
- Use images to tell your story or illustrate your metaphor
- Use image resources and services to help you find the right image
- Make the image the focus on the slide, taking up more real estate
- Minimize the use of language
- Keep bullets to a minimum
- Think of your bullets as very succinct "hooks" (more on this is a future post)