Showcase: Christopher Stillwell


Between my experience attending a number of great presentations over the past year, and my recent reading of Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, I have become convinced that use of images is the key to a persuasive presentation. Reynolds makes the point brilliantly by contrasting two slides—one with the title Blogs are like sharks followed by five bullet points, the other with the same title over a large image of a shark on patrol. Which presentation would you rather attend?

Professional presenter George Pickering impressed me with his fresh ideas for use of photos to personalize his content. First, he illustrated early points with pictures of the conference venue itself. By doing so, he built a sense of community with his audience and made it plain that his content had been tailored for us. Next, he supported an anecdote about a family discussion with a recent photo of himself standing between his parents. While providing a nice visual for the narrative, the photo provided a shorthand way of getting to know George, generating more investment in what he might have to say.

Angi Malderez’s teacher training workshop used a giant picture of a swan to represent teachers—calm, serene, and purposeful on the surface, but working like crazy underneath. As I develop my own presentations, I think perhaps presenters should be similarly swanlike. By taking sufficient care to match spoken text with appropriate images, we can be persuasive with the carefully planned but seemingly effortless delivery of our material.


Christopher Stillwell is a Lecturer at a private university near Tokyo.

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