Visual Oompf!

Like it or lump it, PowerPoint is a necessary tool for most presenters. While the software boasts efficient, easy to create presentation capabilities, it also runs the risk of sending your audience into a bullet-point induced coma. To bridge the gap between the time-strapped presenter and the weary-eyed audience, I (full disclosure: an untrained, non- graphic designer) offer my own take on Presentation Zen – ideas I use to add oompf to PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentation, Slide Rocket, etc.

In this first post for “Visual Ooompf – Designing With a Non-Designer”, I offer three practical tips to successfully use pictures in presentations.

Not just pretty to look at, pictures are the ultimate “oompf adder” as they can also help your audience retain information. A well-chosen image is an opportunity to reinforce your point AND strengthen students’ brains’ synapses.     If you decide to use an image or two to reinforce your words while presenting, there are really just two things to remember: 1) Use high quality images and 2) Use RELEVANT images. You can stop reading now.

If you are still here, may I now introduce you to Tip #1: use photographs in your presentations over clipart for a clean modern look. Personal (relevant) photos are a great way to add some humanity to your lecture and share a bit of your self to the wanting audience of relative strangers in front of you.  If you are not as lucky as we are at CTSI to have an ever growing library of high-quality, in-house generated stock photos, there are several repositories online offering free images, such as Flikr’s creative commons pool,  Image*After or Stock Vault

Tip #2 is a stylistic one – background colour. When you are sorting through the reels of stock photography on say, stock.xchng ( for the perfect photo of  “technology”, look for images with a white background. They will blend seamlessly into your white slides (stay tuned for another post on “colour scheme”) and continue that modern look you are now perfecting.

My final Tip #3 about using images in your presentations (and my attempt to appease the photo-resisters) is that there can be too much of a good thing.  If the purpose of using images in a presentation is to help your audience process information, remember the idea of limited capacity.  Generally speaking, people can only pay attention to a few pieces of information at a time. Too many images and you run the risk of overloading your audience (same thing with too many words on a slide).

To conclude my first post on “Visual Oompf – Designing With a Non-Designer”, I would like to invite you to share your own Oompf ideas. There are always new ways of thinking and seeing and being the knowledge hungry non-designer that I am – I would love to hear from you.