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The most powerful speakers make great use of imagery to make their talks and presentations engaging and memorable.  In the first part of this three-part series you read about the considerable research on the effectiveness of imagery.

Presentations - use images to light them up

In this part we’ll look at six ways you can easily inject images into any of your presentations to make them engaging and memorable.

6 powerful sources of imagery

Here are tools that anyone can employ easily and effectively to invest their words with greater imagery that will lift their presentations and speeches way above the ordinary:

  1. Personal Stories. In his now famous commencement speech to Stanford graduates in 2005 the late charismatic founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs, based his entire speech around three stories from his life. First he spoke of his early years when he was put up for adoption; then of how he felt when he was fired from his own company, Apple Computers; and finally he spoke of the effect his brush with death, in the form of pancreatic cancer, had upon him.  Because those stories were so obviously authentic that audience was help rapt by his speech, and that talk is already being quoted as an all-time great business speech.  You too have such stories from your life, stories that made you who you are, and taught you what you know. Don’t imagine that they are of no interest to others – don’t take them for granted.
  2. Other’s Stories. Your parents, loved ones and friends have told you all sorts of stories about their lives and experiences – all of which can be wonderful instruments for getting a point across more effectively.  Because they come from a different era the life experiences of parents and grandparents can frequently be amongst the most compelling stories you can tell.
  3. Draw on your culture.  When you speak to groups from other cultures always remember too that the everyday stories and even myths that are familiar and ordinary to people sharing your background may be utterly fascinating to people from another culture.
  4. Quotations. When you use a quotation appropriately you effectively borrow the credibility of the person you quote – and you can find a quotation to fit EVERY situation simply by Googling something like “Quotations about <topic>”.  As Marlene Dietrich said “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself” (I found that one by Googling ‘quotations about quotations’).  Use quotations liberally.
  5. Metaphors. Wikipedia defines a metaphors as: “… an analogy between two objects or ideas…For example: ‘Her eyes were glistening jewels'”.  Doesn’t the ‘glistening jewels’ metaphor tell you altogether more than any other set of everyday adjectives could have? Such use of imagery lights up the listener’s imagination on a subconscious level and makes ideas and concepts altogether more memorable.  Michael Dell, the charismatic founder of Dell Computers, used a simple but extremely effective metaphor in a speech when he told 2003 graduates of the University of Texas in Austin to find their own ways in life: “As you start your journey the first thing you should do is throw away your store-bought map and begin to draw your own“. There’s no way you could make this simple message clearer or more memorable through the use of more convention non image-based language.  Make it a habit to note down useful metaphors any time you hear them – you never know when they will be of use. Of course, there are dozens of reference books that will give you access to metaphors for just about any message you want to convey. One excellent example is “I never metaphor I didn’t like” by Mardy Grothe.
  6. Similes. A simile compares two unlike things, generally using ‘like’ or ‘as’ to link them together and make the point more memorable. Similes are a fabulous mechanism for making a speech much more image rich and memorable.  The late co-founder of Profiles International, Jim Sirbasku, was a great lover of similes. He spoke of how our ‘sales took off like a homesick angel’, of how good salespeople jumped on opportunities “…like a rooster on a June Bug”, and how someone who looked a little grumpy had ‘a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp’.  You can sprinkle similes right throughout your talk to inject a little color and, because similes are frequently humorous, you also give your audience a few smiles – and when used sensitively humor also makes your talks memorable.  Once again, there are LOTS of simile dictionaries. ‘The Book of Similes’ by Robert Baldwin and Ruth Paris provides an A-Z list of hundreds of great similes arranged by topic. You’ll even find some interesting lists sprinkled around the internet (strangely, at the time I wrote, I couldn’t find an online simile or metaphor dictionary – an opportunity for someone enterprising?).

Use these image tools cleverly and your talk will light up your presentations and ensure that your audience remembers them long after even you have forgotten them.

In the final part of this three-part series we’ll look at a step-by-step approach for building imagery into your presentations.

How do you light up your presentations?

Use the ‘Comments’ section below to share your best tips



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