Don’t forget the word-pictures

Many of my previous posts have been about adding a visual element to your presentations. But you don’t have to do this literally – you can also do it by triggering images in the minds of your audience.

I first learnt this about 15 years ago when I was presenting with an overhead projector. I was telling a story about elephants. It was about how a baby elephant is trained by chaining it to a post that it can’t pull out. It strains against the post but to no avail. Eventually the baby elephant resigns itself to being chained to the post. As it grows older, it develops the strength to pull out the post – but it has the limiting belief that it can’t pull it out – so it never tries.

Half-way through the story I put a cute line-drawing of a baby elephant on the overhead. An audience-member came up to me at the end and told me that the picture of the baby elephant had spoiled it for her – because up till then she had had a picture of a real elephant in her head.

You could object that I used a line-drawing rather than a real photo and that’s why it didn’t work. And yes, that might have been part of the reason. But consider the fantastic scenes that you visualize in your head when you’re reading a great book – then you go and see the movie of the book and it’s not nearly as good.

So the lesson is you don’t need to show a slide, if you can paint pictures on the canvas of the minds of your audience. Just like you visualised the elephant.

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