Using Stock Photos and Diagrams in Business Presentations: by M. S. Ramgopal

Using Stock Photos and Diagrams in Business Presentations: by M. S. Ramgopal

Created: Wednesday, October 17, 2012, posted by at 4:00 am

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Business presentations are increasingly becoming visual. Slide decks are being used more as visual aids for audiences than as memory joggers for presenters. In this article, we explore the specific roles played by two common visual tools -viz. stock photos and diagrams in business presentations.

The Difference Between Stock Photos and Diagrams

Even though the terms “photos” and “diagrams” are quite common, the difference between the two tools is not clearly defined. So, let us take a minute to spell out the difference as we see it:

  • Photos are snap shots of reality. They show details of an object or a place. They portray emotions of a person or capture the mood of an event. Good photos speak for themselves. They don’t need much explanation.
  • A diagram is an abstract representation of a concept. Unlike photos, diagrams need explanation. A good diagram helps to understand a complex concept in a simple way.

Both the tools have their place in a business presentation. The key is to know where to use them for maximum impact.

Ineffective Use of Stock Photos

Many presenters use stock photos merely as decorative backdrops. For example, take a look at this slide:

Though the photo sets the context for the text, there is no “information loss” when you remove the picture.

  • Relevant statistics for the region or a quote by a research agency could have supported the claim much better.
  • If the idea is to set the context – an X-ray image of a damaged lung could have got the audience sit up and listen.

Using Stock Photos Effectively

The best way to use a stock photo is to define its purpose right up front. Use it when you want to show a specific object, place or person. Or use it to capture emotions. Here is an example:

We find that stock photos are more useful for “big picture” presentations by C-suite big wigs than for content rich presentations by a typical business executive.

Most business presentations appeal to logic than to emotions. That is why, diagrams play a far larger role in communicating a business message. Here are three situations where you are better off using a diagram than a picture:

1. Use Diagrams to Explain a Concept

It is always a good idea to use diagrams to explain a concept. For example, when you want to show multiple stages in a recruitment process a typical “captioned photo” slide may look as follows:

Though the photo sets the context for the topic, it hijacks the attention of your audience. Instead, a simple diagram like this is more suited to communicate your message effectively:

As you can see in this case, the diagram adds meaning to the message. Removing the diagram would make this slide “lose” information.

2. Use Diagrams to Build Information in Stages

It is difficult to use purposeful custom animation on stock photos. Whereas, you can explain your message in simple incremental steps using diagrams. For example, if you want to explain the need to maintain a constant sales pipeline, you can use the following diagram with relevant custom animation:

Custom animation allows you to pause, engage and proceed with your slides. Good diagrams allow you to use custom animation to your advantage.

3. Use Diagrams to Engage Audiences with Multiple Scenarios

A diagram allows you to operate beyond your slides and hence creates better audience engagement. For example, you can draw a diagram on a white board and switch around the elements in the diagram based on audience feedback.


In short, the roles of photos and diagrams can be summarized using this simple flow chart (a diagram):

So, make your next presentation remarkable by using the right visual tool.

M. S. RamgopalAnother advantage of using diagrams is — you can create them yourself without having to spend money on monthly subscriptions to stock photo sites. If you are too busy to create professional diagrams from the scratch, you can get high quality diagram templates from Presentation Process. The diagrams you saw in this article are from the site.

M. S. Ramgopal worked in 2 multinational companies for over 15 years and during this time, he noticed a void in the presentation skill levels of business executives. Many of them had brilliant ideas, but they lacked the skills necessary to sell those ideas effectively.

To help others present their ideas better and reach their true potential, Ramgopal and his wife, Arte, started the website Presentation Process. You can visit their site to find free advanced PowerPoint tutorials and creative presentation ideas for business presentations.

Categories: graphics, guest_post, powerpoint

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