Why content reigns supreme.

Okay, I’m not known for my political correctness as I’m sure this headline confirms – but really they don’t.

They think they are clever, but all they do is demonstrate they really don’t understand how slides work in conjunction with the presenter to reinforce the message.

I’m referring to presenters who think a presentation that consists of big images and short text is the way to go, but they don’t take time to think about how it actually works with an audience. (Now, I’m not criticising this presentation technique, just the people who really don’t understand how to use it.)

To my knowledge it was popularised by Garr Reynolds in the presentation space through his blog Presentation Zen and Steve Jobs in the wider, more commercial sense. They understood the approach and how an image and text in context support the speaker and their message, as these example show.

These slides have relevance in themselves — even without a speaker they are understandable. They have a message to which the presenter can give context and meaning, resulting in enhanced understanding and engagement.

There are however, a number of presenters out there who have taken the idea of big image and text and demonstrated they have no understanding of how it works. It’s not just some image and one word; its key message and reinforcing image. The two together have more impact than each alone. The image below is a classic example:

The word “Achieve” doesn’t say much to the audience, the clouds don’t extend that message in anyway. What results is a cognitive dissonance on behalf of the audience as they try to comprehend the relationship and the messaging on the slide. While they are doing this, they are not listening to the speaker.

The next image is far more effective. The text carries with it a message and the image reflects both an achievement in where the person is, and the challenge they are about to embark upon.

Nothing in a presentation has a free ride, everything must contribute to achieving the outcome. In this sense then, images must contribute to the messaging, not distract from it. No matter what technique you use, make sure you make your key takeaways clear and that your images add to the messaging.

Lee Featherby (@mrpresentations)