Paint Pictures with Words
Find out how to make speeches more memorable
The Power of Pictures
Have you ever heard a speech or presentation, and ten minutes after it’s finished, you can’t remember much about it?
Or worse, you’ve delivered a presentation and it’s obvious that the audience hasn’t really understood what you’ve been talking about, let alone remembered the key points.
Would you like to know how to add impact to your message?
Yes? Then get ready to paint some pictures with words.
You look out of the window and it’s raining.
So what? It’s not exactly exciting or memorable is it?
But what about, “Beyond the open window, rain hisses like a nest of angry vipers.”
Do you get the picture? It’s not just drizzling or raining lightly!
Even though most of us have never seen a nest of vipers, we’re left in no doubt about the weather. In our minds we clearly see the rain hammering down.
When we speak, we can provide information in a way that reports the basic facts. But it isn’t very exciting is it? But what if we added some colour? Colour that would make our speech more memorable. We should aim to craft our words to help the audience create a picture in their minds.
“Caught on the wind, two empty plant pots spiral through the air and fall giddily and with a clatter on to the lawn.”
Isn’t that much more effective than simply saying, ‘The wind blew a couple of old pots around’?
The two colourful quotes are from books by Anna Nicholas that describe her life in Majorca. As a journalist and owner of a London based Public Relations company, she understands the need to make an impact.
Words and Images
Think about things that have happened to you in the past. Maybe it’s a memorable holiday. Can you visualise it?
Are you seeing a beach with the sun beating down and the waves gently lapping the sands? Boats with colourful sails drift across the bay.
Or perhaps you are sitting in a café, glumly watching the lashing rain streaming down the window. You are frustrated and wondering if the sun will ever appear.
Note the words ‘memorable’ and ‘visualise’. They go together naturally. If we want our speeches to be memorable, we must help the audience to visualise the key elements.
Scientific studies show that the brain encodes images much more effectively than mere words alone. So, in an ideal world, we’d use pictures instead of words to get our message across. That’s why PowerPoint presentation slides should use images rather than words. But even if we aren’t using visual aids, the power of imagery can be used.
In our post on making Persuasive Presentations we discussed the need to engage with the audience. Adding colour to a speech by using powerful word pictures will help to increase engagement.
If it’s a business presentation, we’re unlikely to employ flowery language.
But word pictures don’t have to feature hissing vipers or plant pots spiralling through the air. Everyday words can be used to describe something in a way that helps the listener to create an image in their mind.
We want them to experience the words, not just hear them. To be able to translate the words into a familiar situation.
Let’s look at an example. One in which you are a website designer. What if you painted a picture contrasting two shops, as a metaphor for revitalising a tired website?
Imagine a shop. It’s not on the High Street. It’s on a quiet side street, with few people passing. The shop front is faded and tired looking. The window display is jumbled and dated. You’re not tempted to go in, are you?
If your online business is disappointing, could the problem be that your website is like that shop? Do you need a smarter shopfront and a more modern, brighter window display? And would it help if the shop was on the High Street?
The simple story is easy to understand and visualise compared with a technical explanation of a website.
Of course, if you sell umbrellas, maybe hissing vipers could help you clinch a sale!
Got The Picture?
Images are more memorable than words alone. By using words to paint pictures we aid communication with the audience. We gain a direct line to their brain that lets us imprint the key points of our message in their memory.
Overloading the audience with information, fact and figures will lose them. But if we illustrate the key points with word pictures, we can keep them engaged. Our message will be so much more compelling if we illustrate it with images. And it will make it much more likely that our listeners will remember the important aspects of our presentation.
Make sure you paint pictures in your next speech or presentation!
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