Issue #169 September 30, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Using photos when telling stories

Last week at the PowerPoint Live conference, more than one speaker emphasized how important it is that we tell stories when we are presenting instead of reading slides full of text or data. I agree with them and this issue I want to talk about how we can enhance our stories by using photos. What a photo can do is transport your audience right into the story with you. Photos work at an emotional level, which is where stories work as well. With the detail of your stories, you help the audience form an image in their own mind and feel what you felt when the story happened to you. A photo helps take the audience there more rapidly and makes it more real. Here are some examples of photos that can transport your audience. If you are talking about a location, such as a field of flowers or a busy city, a photo can take them there. If you are talking about a time of day, like sunrise or late afternoon, photos take you to that time on the clock instantly. If the story takes place in a particular season, a photo of a snowy winter day or a hot summer day will make people feel like they are there with you. And if your story involves a recognizable city or place, show a photo of the city skyline or famous building. I suggest you use photos to help set the scene of the story and not use photos to try to illustrate people in the story. People are best explained using your own words and facial expressions. Photos of people are also harder to use because they require permission of the person in the photo. One use of a person in a photo would be to use a stock photo to show an emotion if you feel you won’t be able to adequately portray the emotion yourself. When you use photos to help your story have an impact, be careful not to leave them on the screen too long. You should place the photo on a black slide and make it as large as you can so it is easy to see for everyone in the audience. Show it only for the sentence or two that you need to say, then go to a black slide so the focus of the audience comes back to you moving the story along. Stories are powerful and I am convinced that they can help any presentation have greater impact. If you use photos you have taken with your digital camera and your PowerPoint file gets too large to e-mail, check out the video I have at for an explanation of how to reduce the file size without having to redo your slides.