Memory ships.

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Pictures make presentations better. Here’s why.

A nautical metaphor.

Imagine a big wooden ship sailing into a stormy harbor. The waves crash as the sailors work to secure the ship against the dock. The more ropes the sailors can cast, the more securely the ship will weather the storm.

Think of the ideas in your presentation as ships docking in the stormy harbors of your audience’s minds. The more associations you can make with your ideas — the more ropes you can cast — the better they will be remembered.

The metaphor isn’t too far off from the actual biology of memory making. The more relationships you can associate with an idea, the more neural connections are formed and the more rooted it becomes in your memory. Most mnemonic devices play on this, getting you to associate additional objects or sounds with the thing you’re trying to remember.

Slides give you the opportunity to tap into parts of the brain words alone can’t reach — the picture parts.

Think of the visuals in your presentation as additional ropes to cast. It’s one thing to talk about your idea, it’s a better thing to show it.

Make a memory.

You can see this idea in action in the example slides below.

The slide on the left is a typical text-heavy presentation slide. It's the speaker's talking points in bulleted form. It contains everything the speaker is going to say, but doesn't do much to make it more memorable. You could easily take this slide out and the presentation would be no worse without it — in fact, it may even be marginally better.

The slide on the right is the exact same content, but it uses a picture instead of words to relate the message. The speakers talking points have not changed, they're just now being spoken instead of read. The audience has an extra trigger at their disposal, a visual cue, to make the content easier to remember.

Which slide resonates more with you?

It can feel risky to not include all of your content on a slide, to go with a visual instead, but your presentation is made stronger because of it. At the end of the day isn't that the point?

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