Presentations, Pitches & Pictures

Pictures and Storytelling for Presentations

How To Make Powerful Presentations

I coach entrepreneurs and business people who have to pitch and present their ideas on a regular basis. For the longest time, the presentations were always full of bullet points and text, so much so that it was like reading a textbook rather than seeing a presentation. With the encouragement of writers like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Oren Klaff, I am seeing more pictures and visuals, and less text.

Evocative Images

What is it about a picture that makes it so powerful? It is partly because the picture will go directly to the visual cortex, without interpretation, evoking an emotional feeling and awakening previous memories. As an example, if you had a dog or own a dog, and you see a picture of the dog of the same breed, you can barely help yourself in your emotional reaction. I have noticed people saying “ah so” – and they don’t mean to, it’s just that the picture elicits the emotional reaction. If you can find a visual that supports your point of view that happens to also elicit an emotional reaction, you are influencing the person watching you present.

For example; I’m raising funds for the Red Cross. If I have a picture of a disaster area with children in it – it will elicit a reaction of empathy, sympathy and perhaps the listener will be moved to make a contribution in some way or another – usually this kind of appeal is asking for funds. In a more direct business sense if you’re offering a service that saves time and money, you might want to find yourself a visual that has time and money incorporated, not the words but in a visual sense, perhaps a stopwatch laying on the top of dollar bills. I have had people tell me that this sometimes is very corny. Yes it is, and it works.

Digital storytelling is always more effective with pictures – whether they simply illustrate the story (see the video story below), or are crafted to convey specific information, such as you might see in infographics.

If I wanted to show that an event was going to impact people in a positive and friendly way, it makes sense to show crowds or groups of people having fun, being friendly, and having happy expressions. In fact, we did this when we were presenting to the Winter Olympic Committee. We showed happy people on the streets of Vancouver and Whistler, enjoying winter fun.

The Pictures Illustrate The Story

Does this mean that you can just put up a bunch of pictures that represent what you want to talk about or what you want people to buy or to invest in? No, you still have to write a good presentation, develop a storyline, select the right visuals to go with your storyline and to support your position, and rehearse, rehearse…

I’ve had some people say that this is outright manipulation of the audience. Yes. What you’re trying to do is to persuade them, to involve them, to have them say yes to your proposal.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are in sales, everyone is in sales all the time. One of the best examples that I can think of to learn how to use pictures, graphics and a storyline in making a pitch (or giving a great presentation) is to watch advertising done on television. Some of the best are the Super Bowl ads, which are often saved and judged. You can learn a lot from breaking them down into their storyline, how the visual supports the storyline and the script. These are little daunting because often they have Oscar-winning actors delivering the pitch, and in the real world it’s just you and your pictures.

I guess you get the point that it’s not just about pictures, it is also about all the other steps that go with it. But pictures make a huge difference, they can impact your audience in a profound way, emotionally involving them in everything to do with your presentation of course if you’re lousy at giving a presentation you still won’t get it or win the bid!