“It’s worth a thousand words”

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words… and in Project Management where you are trying to share your vision and get buy in, it can really make the difference between success and failure. During this blog, I wanted to discuss the importance of visual imagery in your projects and how effective it can be for you as a leader.

When should you use a picture?

I will regularly use pictures in presentations that can display information in an easier manner than writing. During presentations and documents, I focus on getting and maintaining the attention of the person viewing it and if I can explain something in an easier manner with a picture, I will then use it. Some examples could be:

  • Explaining trends/ graphs
    • It can be really useful to show and use graphs to explain trends / any graphical explanations that you need.
  • Detailing project status / development
    • I will regularly use a 4 Block status update or show the Gantt chart to represent the current status of my project.

When shouldn’t you use a picture?

It can be difficult to know when you shouldn’t use a picture. There are a few instances where pictures may not be suitable.

  • When the information you are showing, will not back up your ‘story’.
    • I’ve seen several presentations where an image is displayed and it shows no correlation and does not back what the presenter is trying to explain. This can make it very difficult for the audience to understand what is going on and can cause a lot of confusion.

  • If the picture is too detailed or cluttered
    • A picture to explain a project status is great, but if it is too cluttered and a simple copy/paste then it will not help your story in the presentation. An example is below. This shows an example WBS but the detail is too small to be read and understood.
  • When the picture does not add value.
    • An example of this could be using a diagram to explain a project process and then detail out the exact same information that is in the diagram in writing underneath with no added information.

Is a Meme ever acceptable during presentations?

This has been one of the questions that I’ve received quite frequently in the past few years, especially with the rise of Meme’s and social media.

Picture taken from TheDigitalPM Twitter Feed.

I would recommend caution when using Meme’s to explain a situation as Meme’s are seen as being very informal. I have used them during webinars, trainings and presentations when I want to explain a joke/scenario. I have never used a Meme during a Steering Committee.

Guidelines for using pictures.

If you want to use pictures, I would recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are you aiming to achieve with this picture? What message are you trying to get across?
  • Will this picture add value or cause confusion?
  • Is the picture sufficient quality for the presentation?

Conclusion:

Pictures can add a lot of value to your presentations and can really be worth a thousand words. Make sure that you are being critical with your use of pictures and see the benefits that it can bring to your communications.

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