Let Images Tell the Story

A picture is worth a thousand words. All corporate communication needs to evoke emotion, tell a story, and convey information. As a product manager, I have encountered a few good visual displays of information and many poor visual displays. The images that seem to resonate with audiences are those which:

  1. Are accompanied by a story
  2. Are images of ‘something’. Not images of words. And not cartoons.
  3. Bring me into the story and picture.
  4. Make me stop and pause.

Earlier this fall, I heard a wonderful speaker at the Kronos Sales kickoff, a blind mountain climber, Erik Weihenmayer. He spoke in detail about everyone’s rope team. His rope team is those people he surrounds himself with, in a circle of trust and camaraderie. Each person is dependent on the other to literally survive as they climb mountains such as Everest.

The most haunting image comes from his book, The Adversity Advantage and the front cover.

It shows Erick climbing a mountain, with one of the members of his rope team. He literally has to jump over a large gorge in the mountain, blind. The image conveys to me concern from the member of the rope team, trust from both members, the risk involved with the jump by showing it in context of the mountain. The image conveys how critical our rope teams are to us both personally and professionally. We need to rely on our rope team to get projects completed, to reflect, to evaluate new ideas, and to collaborate. We cannot do any of these things alone.

What made this image so compelling was the emotion it evoked in me. It made me reflect on my own behavior and the behavior of others. It was a real picture (versus a cartoon) and showed risk and trust.

As Duarte spells out “Evocative visuals: a picture really is worth a thousand words-and a thousand emotions. A compelling image can be an unforgettable emotional link to your information.” (Duarte, 2010, p. 148). It’s not only the image that spoke to me. It was the storytelling as Erik described his rope team while climbing the most difficult mountains in the world, his connection to his rope team, and his reliance on the team. So it was both the picture and the stories, when tied together, which made the entire speech so memorable. In fact, two months later, I still find myself reflecting on the speech.

I want to share another image that evoked visceral emotions in me when I saw it. It’s of a father at the 911 memorial.

This evoked sadness, fear of the future, and raw empathy for this father who had lost his child. I did not need a speech or words to convey the information. The image said it all.

One of the challenges in corporate presentations is we tend to add a large number of words to our presentations. And then speak to the words. It’s the pictures along with the stories that resonate. When putting together your next presentation, remember that its about stories and images. Let the images do the talking.

References:

Duarte, N. (2010). Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Soltz P. (2010). The Adversity Advantage. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc.