Paint Pictures with Words

Paint pictures with words

Make your speeches more memorable

The Power of Pictures

You draw back the curtains and look out on the grey autumnal morning. Drizzle hangs in the air like mist.

Can you visualize the picture? Does it have a certain familiarity?

That’s how to paint pictures with words.

Word pictures can help the audience to create an image in their minds which help them to understand what the reader or the speaker is describing.

And, importantly, it can help the information to be recalled later.

Words Without Pictures

Have you ever heard a speech or presentation, and ten minutes after it’s finished, you can’t remember much about it?

Perhaps part of the reason is that your mind drifted away from the presentation to that lovely beach that you were lying on last week listening to the gentle rumble of the waves spilling on to the sand.

Oops, where were we?

Oh yes, pictures adding impact to presentations.

Let’s mix the paint and get ready to paint some pictures with words.

Speaking Pictures

In her article about persuasive writing, Henneke Duistermaat refers to a famous Rolls Royce advert that stated:

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

That statement might be vaguely familiar. Perhaps you’ve read it before. Another example of images sticking in your mind!

And that is the point of using word pictures: they create images in your mind that are longer lasting than information delivered straight.

Painting Pictures With Words

Think about a memorable holiday.

Are you seeing a beach with the sun beating down, the waves gently lapping the sands and boats with colourful sails drifting across the bay?

Or perhaps it’s the long queue at the airport!

It’s images not words that come to mind. It’s what you visualise that makes it memorable.

Note the words ‘memorable’ and ‘visualise’. They go together naturally.

If you want your speeches and presentations to be memorable, it’s essential to help the audience to visualise the key elements.

And don’t forget to send a few postcards with lovely images of your holiday destination!

Visual Science

Scientific studies show that the brain encodes images much more effectively than mere words alone.

Put another way, our brains are better image processors than word processors. So, in an ideal world, you’d use pictures instead of words to get your message across.

That’s why PowerPoint presentation slides should use images rather than words. But even if you aren’t using visual aids, the power of imagery can still be used.

In our post on Persuasive Presentations we refer to the need to engage with the audience. Adding colour to a speech by using powerful word pictures will help to increase engagement.

In his book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, Paul Arden, a former executive creative director at advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, advises:

“Instead of giving people the benefit of your wit and wisdom (words), try painting them a picture. The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.”

By the way, when you read the word ‘science’ above, did you visualise people in white coats in a lab?

Business Speaking

If it’s a business presentation, you’re unlikely to employ flowery language. But everyday words can be used to describe something in a way that helps the listener to create an image in their mind.

You want them to experience the words, not just hear them.

You want to help them translate the words into a familiar situation, but a memorable one.

Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you are a website designer and you are at an event giving a presentation to business owners.

You’ve done your research and think one or two need to update their websites.

What if you painted a picture in which you contrasted two imaginary shops, as a metaphor for revitalising their tired website?

Your presentation might go something like this:

Imagine a shop. It’s not on the High Street. It’s on a quiet side street, with few people passing by.

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?

We could give you that smart shop on the High Street.

The simple story is easy to understand and visualise compared with a technical explanation of a website.


Got The Picture?

Images are more memorable than words alone.

Overloading the audience with information, fact and figures will lose them.

But if you illustrate the key points with word pictures, you can keep them engaged.

Your message will be so much more compelling if you illustrate it with images.

And it will make it much more likely that your listeners will remember the important aspects of your presentation.

Make sure you paint pictures in your next speech or presentation!

Last updated 20th September 2023

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