I can tell you in a sentence what good PowerPoint is and what bad PowerPoint is. Good PowerPoint has visually compelling pictures that enhance the speaker’s point; bad PowerPoint has lots of small words. Good PowerPoint looks like this:
Bad PowerPoint looks like this:
I read one book that suggested that you never have more than seven words on a slide. Not a bad idea. Kim Golombisky wrote a book on using PowerPoint and gave it the title White Space is Not Your Enemy. The subtitle should be: lots of small words in your enemy.
I did a sermon once where the PowerPoint was nothing but pictures. I read the biblical passage from a paper Bible (so old-school; I know) and then told a number of stories to illustrate the text. Each story was accompanied by a picture. PowerPoint without words; what a concept.
What makes for good pictures?
There are two things to look for in the pictures you choose for PowerPoint:
- Visually compelling
- Fit the content
I am a wedding photographer in another life and am probably more sensitive about the first one than most. Some pictures are just better than others. Suppose you are speaking on the James passage on taming the tongue. You find these two images. Which do you choose?
The second one is, hands down, more visually compelling. For one thing, the lighting is better. The background is also less distracting. The first one has weird color cast. And, the kid in the second photo is more cute than the one in the first. (There is a saying in the photography business: if you want to take beautiful pictures, stand in front of something beautiful.)
We also want pictures that relate to the point and don’t distract from it. It could be argued that this picture is visually compelling. It is also distracting.
If you were talking and this picture was on the screen I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what you were saying. I would be trying to figure out how someone could do that with their tongue.
How do find visually compelling, on-target pics
In a word: Google it. Here is the fine print.
Do a search for whatever topic you are looking for. It doesn’t have to be a physical object. I found the picture on jealousy above by searching for the word “jealousy.”
Click on images. Google changes its interface from time to time, but currently this is a word near the top of the screen. Here is a screenshot
Click on the word images. One more step. This screen comes up.
You can click on any of these images, but you might want to take one more step. See where it says, “search tools”? If you click on that you find some more options. One of them is size. I nearly always search for large pictures. The resolution of the picture needs to be at least as large as the resolution of your projector. If it is not, the image will stretch and lose quality. (By the way, you won’t want to copy the picture here. This is a thumbnail Google has created. You want to drill down and find the actual high-resolution pic. Right click it, copy, paste into PowerPoint. Mac users: you are on your own on that last step.) You will notice there are two copies of the children’s jealousy picture that I used last week. One of these is twice as big as the other. That is the one I want to use. Occasionally I find a picture that I just love, love, love and can’t find one in a higher resolution version. I occasionally do use a lower resolution version in this case. I try to avoid this.
If you want better PowerPoint use more pictures and fewer words. Google can help you with this.