Making a PPT? 3 tips to choose right images to reinforce your message

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By Henrik Bergqvist

Choosing the right images for a business presentation can be tricky, and there are simply too many variables to be able to list all the dos and don’ts in just a few words.

However, there are a few simple guidelines that can be very helpful for any presenter when looking for impactful presentation images.

There are three key things, in particular, to think about when you’re choosing images: The subject matter and theme, image style, and slide composition and design.

Some of the most common mistakes presenters make are using clunky designs, outdated images or clipart, and photos that compete with their message, rather than supporting it.

For example, it’s common to see a slide featuring the word “jump” next to an image of a person jumping.

But that’s repetitive, and your audience will still get the message if you only feature the standalone word or photo.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into all of these common mistakes and key areas to help you ensure your next presentation truly reinforces your message and leaves an impact.

1. Aligning the subject matter & theme

There should always be a visible connection between your presentation subject matter and the subject of your image. However, overly-obvious images are often perceived as predictable and cliché, which often tends to put people off — or worse still, to sleep.

Every audience has already seen the images of businessmen in suits shaking hands. If you’re trying to convey that a deal has been done or an agreement reached, try mixing it up with a signed contract, some businesswomen shaking hands, or even a high-five or a fist-bump.

Including any image that conveys some sort of emotion or brings an element of surprise can do wonders to support your message.

Another important tip is to remember who your audience is. Are you talking to women, men, or both? Are they within a particular age range, or is it a mixed audience?

Using images that display racial, gender and social diversity can mean the difference between connecting with your audience or putting them off.

In fact, many stock photo companies are becoming aware of this and are creating libraries with much more inclusive images than ever seen before. Take advantage of that in your presentations!

2. Creating a cleaner image style

In 2019, there are simply some image styles that no longer work anymore: Staged and fake-looking stock photos, outdated clipart from the ‘90s, and the photos that everyone has seen a million times before (puzzles, bullseye targets, etc.).

If you want your presentation to come across as modern and sleek, you’ll need to throw those old stock photos and clipart away, and instead stick to images that look authentic and natural.

It’s also important to choose just one overall deck theme or style without mixing in too many different types of images — for example, pick icons that follow a consistent style, images with negative space where text can be placed, and/or photos with calm backgrounds that don’t compete with the message.

Some other key style tips include fonts and colors. You should never use more than one or two different fonts per presentation, and be sure to use big font sizes so your audience doesn’t have to take out their glasses to read your deck.

And when it comes to color themes, it always makes sense to choose one or two colors that match your company or your images throughout the presentation, making for a unified and simple design that everyone can easily digest and enjoy.

3. Designing slide composition and layout

Many times, a message might get lost in translation because there is simply too much happening in the deck.

So many presenters make the mistake of using “busy” images that have far too many elements, or stretching an image full-screen so that it becomes blurry and confusing.

This is why slide composition and layout is crucial to reinforce your message. Think about the composition of your images and the layout of your slides.

Avoid those photos with too many elements and no space for text, unless they’re for a standalone slide with little or no words on top.

Instead, look for photos with plenty of negative space where text can be placed clearly and legibly, and if you do desire a full-screen background image, make sure it’s a simple image with a filter placed on top to enable your text to be legible.

Once you have combined all of these elements, you’ll have a simple, sleek and, most importantly, effective slide deck ready to be presented to your audience.

(The author is CEO & Founder of Pickit, the Microsoft Office add-in giving businesses access to unlimited photos, assets and slide designs right inside PowerPoint.)

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