Picture Words…

I like pictures. I am not sure if it’s true that a picture tells a thousand words, but a good picture can certainly convey a message very clearly and succinctly. And a picture can somehow become a memory in a much better – and more long lasting way – than any set of words. 


I have been up in Scotland this weekend helping my daughter move house. It has been great fun, but very tiring…enjoyable, but hard ­work. I became ‘man-with-a-van for the weekend. And it was a very big van. Much bigger than the one we ordered. A time when a ‘free upgrade’ wasn’t what I was after. Even my daughter (who doesn’t drive) observed that I seemed more tentative. And that was because I was. It’s amazing how disconcerting it is when something you are very used to doing (like using a rear view mirror) suddenly stops being possible…and yet you still have to deliver.


And we took lots of pictures and sent them to my wife and son. The van. The empty van. The full van (about 5 hours later). The tired daughter. The happy but sweaty father. And the Italian dinner that night. These are the days that inevitably become special memories…and the photos always help…


I found myself thinking about pictures a lot this last week. Prior to my removal trip to Scotland I had been in the US mid-west for a meeting of my leadership team. I presented on day 1 for some three hours…and I used lots of photos and pictures. I always use slides with pictures wherever possible, and I avoid slides with words as much as possible. I know I enjoy presenting like this…but I found myself with time (waiting at airports) to consider why.


A slide with two or three pictures – and nothing else – is easier to produce. All it takes is some dexterity with cutting and pasting Google Images…and the occasional need to crop or animate. So much simpler that all headings with never ending sub-bullets….


And I know that a good picture will often communicate the message I am trying to share in a far better and far simpler way. The power is the visual. The metaphor. The symbolism. The more striking the better. My simplest example is team membership. Imagine a slide with lines, boxes, names (in boxes), titles and roles. Or imagine that only has photographs of the team members. No words. Which will be more engaging? Or interesting? Or engaging?


But I also realised that a slide with only pictures and no words can be easier to create…it can be harder to present. There is no ‘comfort blanket’ of words to read. But there is always a time limit for the presentation. It’s no good having a great set of slides with pictures and then spending all available time talking about the first slide!


The flip-side of this ‘challenge’ though is also interesting. I realised that what I say with each picture slide is much more spontaneous. Yes…I have an outline in my mind – I chose the pictures after all – but I don’t have any words prepared. I say exactly what comes into my mind as I look at the picture on each slide.


And maybe this is the most important aspect. Spontaneous is good…and real. My excitement and enthusiasm comes through. Any disappointment or anxiety will always be evident.


When we got home after our removal weekend, I looked at our photos. Most were great. They captured the story of the weekend. They immediately brought back memories. But the best – by far – were the most spontaneous. 






About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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2 Responses to Picture Words…

  1. dram says:

    I quite agree Steve (except for the bit about slides with only pictures being easier to produce – I end up fiddling for ages to find the picture that captures the thought exactly). It is surprising how few people understand how to create effective slides.

    We had a company meeting recently and our Practice Lead for Big Data presented his report with nothing but pictures. It was outstanding. And later on he gave a presentation with lots of words on the slides – obviously written for him. It was fun watching him try to present through gritted teeth!

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