Where can I get free photos for PowerPoint?

August 29, 2012

Free photos!Boring PowerPoint’s for chumps, and by now we all know that photographs can really elevate a presentation. What they can also elevate are your expenses, because royalty-free photographs can run into some money depending on how many you include.

Some people think that images they find online are free because they are, well, online. This is wrong, and in many cases it is a breach of copyright law to use photos you find online without paying for them. Unless you are given explicit permission, whether it is granted to you in writing or if you have purchased a license, you shouldn’t use photographs you’ve found on the Internet in your presentation. You have to dig deeper than a simple Google image search.

This doesn’t mean there are no free images available to you. On the contrary, there are many ways to get free photographs for your PowerPoint presentations or for personal use that won’t land you in Copyright Court.

  • MorgueFile is a “public image archive by creatives for creatives” that offers thousands of free images.
  • Stock.xchng has a robust search engine and the ability to create lightboxes (collections of photos) which you can share with others.
  • Wikimedia Commons is a vast collection of photographs, many of which are in the public domain. This means that the copyright has expired and you can use the photos freely. Other images are offered under the Creative Commons license, which means that you must “attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.” This is usually as simple as putting the phrase “Image © 2012 Joe Smith via Wikimedia Commons” on or near the image in your presentation. Scroll down the screen to determine what the copyright situation is for each image you find.
  • Use your own pictures. How many of us have a smartphone that can take pictures? OK, you can put your hands down; I can’t see you anyway. If your smartphone takes high-resolution photos then why not use some of these in your presentations? Or you could use your digital camera for better resolution. Images of clouds, grass, city streets, traffic signs, and any number of subjects are just a click away. And you can submit your own photos to MorgueFile or Stock.xchng if you want to share the wealth.

One big caveat

You knew that the other shoe had to drop sometime, right?

Photographs of people require special consideration. If it’s impossible to tell who the people are, such as in a blurred image of a crowd, a hand holding an object, or a foot kicking a ball, then you don’t have to worry. But photographs of identifiable people require a model release — written permission from the subject of the photograph to use the image for commercial purposes (e.g., your PowerPoint presentation). You can get into legal trouble for using a person’s photograph without their explicit permission, especially if your use implies their endorsement of your product or idea.

Stock photography companies take care of obtaining model releases, but there’s not much governance on the free photo sites. If you’re using your own photographs, the same rule applies: get a model release or don’t use pictures of identifiable people.

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Egocentric PowerPoints fail the “WIIFM?” test

June 11, 2012

What's in it for me?The other day, a friend of mine wanted my advice on pricing the redesign of her client’s pitch deck, the initial presentation shown to a prospect to get hired. When I opened the presentation, my jaw literally dropped because it was an 11-page résumé in 16-point type sandwiched between a title slide and a closing slide. And the closing slide didn’t even have any contact information.

My friend’s client seems to believe something similar to the Field of Dreams maxim: “If you build it, they will come.” In his case it was “If I tell people how great my company is, they will hire us.” But this is a terrible approach.

When you focus entirely on your own qualifications, education, and achievements you’re not necessarily demonstrating your worth. Instead, you’re bombarding your audience with data about how great you are while ignoring issues they may be facing. The focus has to be on the audience and address the big question that’s on everyone’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”

In marketing we speak of “client pains” — problems the client has — and how to solve them. The best marketing addresses these pains directly (“Are you tired of paying too much for cable?” “Been in an accident?” “You could save over $475 on car insurance!”). It can be even more effective if you’re able to reveal pains the client didn’t know he had which could cause problems later on. By providing solutions to these pains, the savvy marketer positions himself as the only logical choice for the client.  Addressing and solving client pains is client-centric, not egocentric, which is what great marketing should be. What’s in it for me? You could save money, increase efficiency, live longer, be happier, lower your risk, etc. etc. etc.

To be fair, the client approached my friend because he recognized that his deck was unattractive. And as everybody knows, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. But redesigning this deck would’ve been like putting lipstick on a pig because it was entirely presenter-focused.

What can help for this type of presentation when you’re trying to get someone to hire you based on your credentials?

  • Client testimonials: Ask satisfied clients to described how you helped them to save money, finish a task in record time, avoid red tape, etc. Would they rehire you? If so, quote them on it!
  • Highlight benefits of certifications: If you’re certified or trained in a particular specialty, how does that save your client money? Ensure the success of the project? Prevent rework?
  • Photos of completed projects: A picture speaks a thousand words.
  • Success stories: You don’t need full-blown case studies, just some anecdotes about how you helped your clients to solve their problems.
  • Relevant companies you’ve worked with: Focus on companies you’ve worked with that are similar to your audience’s.

Remember, the presentation is always about the audience, not about the presenter. Always focusing on the “What’s in it for me?” question will help you stay on track to create presentations that really mean something to your audience.

Your turn

Have you ever been to an egocentric presentation? What was it like? Have you ever delivered one?


Great Design Goes Mainstream

June 4, 2012

Place settingFor the past several years, I have been working with people who share my conviction that the same design principles that are used to create award-winning websites, compelling logos, and stunning point-of-purchase displays can and should be used in PowerPoint presentations. This viewpoint isn’t commonly shared; the majority seems to believe that PowerPoint is nothing but a necessary evil that must be suffered through like some kind of horrible rite of initiation. These people are missing out on a powerful design trend: the mainstream acceptance of good design.

We are surrounded by increasingly sophisticated designs without necessarily being aware of it. Think about how easy it is to order just about anything under the sun from Amazon.com. Their revolutionary website sets the bar for great user experience. Industrial designer Phillipe Starck’s work for Target changed the way mainstream America believes even such mundane items as dustpans and trash cans should look. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, with its translucent case and bold blue accents, it smashed the paradigm that personal computers needed to be housed in beige boxes.

For some reason, this increased design sophistication doesn’t always carry through to a company’s PowerPoint presentations. Tired sales reps and harried admins are still banging out text-heavy, bullet-pointed borefests in much the same way they did in the late eighties when PowerPoint first hit the market. The only difference now is some of the “cool” animation effects and clipart available in PowerPoint 2010. But presentations can be made much more effective with great design. And the public is increasingly demanding great design.

Welcome to the Era of Design proclaims the headline of a recent blog on Forbes.com by Adam Swann, head of strategy at gyro. This article talks about how design is becoming mainstream, affordable, and expected in today’s marketplace.

In an era of design, bad design really stands out as being, well, bad. Today’s innovators stay ahead of their competition by ensuring that great design is carried out in all aspects of their marketing mix.

Your turn

What role does design play in your business?


Good presentations start with good scripts

May 31, 2012

ScreenplayA gentleman once asked me to provide a quote on redoing a PowerPoint presentation. He provided a link to the presentation, which included a voiceover narration.  I had to explain to him that he’d be unhappy with the results if I just did the cosmetic fixes he’d asked for. Sure, the presentation would’ve looked better, but it wouldn’t have made it a better presentation. Redesigning the presentation in its current state would’ve done nothing to address the basic problem: the visuals didn’t match the script.

The script is what you as the presenter are going to say when you’re up in front of the audience, or what your narration will be on a mobile presentation. Some people create PowerPoint presentations first then write the script to match the visuals. This is absolutely the opposite approach you should take. Think about how all movies start with a script. It would be absurd to shoot a movie without one. Just as it’s absurd to create a PowerPoint presentation before you write your script.

The script is what drives the PowerPoint visuals. It tells you what words, if any, to use on each slide and suggests images that would help to convey your message. It can also suggest the use of animation to emphasize or illustrate key points.

PowerPoint presentations should enhance good storytelling. And you don’t get good storytelling without a good script. So here’s a simple graphic to remind you of the correct four-step sequence you should follow when creating your next PowerPoint presentation:

PowerPoint process

Your turn

Do you write your script before you design your PowerPoint presentations? If so, how well has that worked for you?


March Slide Makeover of the Month

March 30, 2012

This month’s slide comes from Design Dispatch subscriber Bob Carpenter of BidRx. His company wants to become the eBay or the Priceline of the pharmaceutical business. By logging on to BidRx, people will be able to get competitive pricing on their prescription medicine and save a bundle in the process!

Before

BidRx slide: before

There are some pretty compelling data in this table to support Bob’s assertion that people will save money by using BidRx, but this layout makes it hard to find. Tables are usually a bad idea to show an audience because with so much to analyze you lose people’s attention.

There’s a lot of extra information in this table. Showing the prices down to the penny might be accurate, but it clutters the table and doesn’t help to show the overall trend that BidRx’s prices are lower than Medco’s. And is it important for people to know the exact dosages of each medicine?

The biggest takeaway from this slide is that consumers stand to save up to 86% on this prescription. That’s a huge discount and is the key value proposition. So why is it so tiny and at the very bottom of the slide?

After

BidRx slide: after 1

The first thing I did was to change the title of the slide. I like to think of slide titles as headlines, so they should be attention-grabbing and interesting. Next, I presented the data as a column chart, which makes it easy to compare Medco’s prices against BidRx’s.

The color choices I made are deliberate. In a financial setting, red = bad, so I’ve set up Medco as the “bad guy.” The BidRx columns are blue, a soothing color associated with health care.

The second image is what the slide looks like after the animation. I don’t want to leave it to chance that the audience will understand that BidRx’s prices are lower, so I tell them and I circle the amount people will save.
Next, I created a second slide to call out the even greater savings that could result from a competitive bidding situation:

BidRx slide: after 2

I copied the chart from the previous slide, then animate the bars going down on two of the medicines and point out the lower prices with green arrows. Then the same summary box appears.

Want to get your own slide makeover? Design Dispatch subscribers each receive a free slide makeover, a $100 value! The Design Dispatch is your monthly guide to great PowerPoint.

Sign up for the Design Dispatch today!


Six reasons you should pay for PowerPoint design

March 12, 2012
A very ugly PowerPoint slideI make a lot of prospecting calls to tell people about my presentation design services and to ask for their business, so I hear many variations on “We don’t want any,” such as, “We already have a template,” “We do all of our PowerPoint in house,” and “My admin takes care of that.” Maybe you are thinking along the same lines as you read this. But sometimes it can be beneficial to look for a presentation design specialist outside one’s organization. Here are six good reasons why:

1. Your time is valuable.

Do you change the oil in your car? I don’t. Sure, I might save a few bucks doing it myself, but it’s much more convenient for me to bring the car to the shop. They perform this service all day every day and have developed work processes to speed things along quickly. Even a simple job like this might take me two hours, including finding all the proper tools, doing the actual work, and locating a place that will take the used oil.

If you don’t use PowerPoint all day every day, there are probably a few things that hold you up, that take a while to figure out. The thing is, every minute that you spend working with technology you’re not thoroughly familiar with is a minute you’re not making money for your company. You hire specialists for other business areas, why not presentation design?

2. Good design communicates ideas better than poor design.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who are professionals in their respective careers. They are really good at what they do and they know their stuff, as is evidenced by the wealth of text and data they stuff into their presentations. But slides full of text, bullet points, busy charts, and complicated tables require an audience to spend too much time sorting through information and not enough time paying attention to the presenter. Even the best ideas get lost in the confusion.

Presentation designers can transform boring data into effective infographics, find and use photographs that do a better job of communicating than bullet points, and ensure that your deck looks like the rest of your marketing materials, thereby strengthening your brand.

3. You don’t want a bored audience.

How exciting is a slide full of text? It’s like watching paint dry, right? Loading up slides with text might make it easier to remember what to say, but it’s miserable for the audience. They’re too busy reading slides to listen to the presenter or, worse, they’re seething because they know how to read so they resent this huge waste of their time.

Do you think a roomful of irritated people will want to fund a venture? Buy a product or service? Attend a class? Probably not.

4. Designers have created the other components of your marketing mix.

Logos, websites, catalogs, data sheets, business cards, uniforms, vehicle graphics, brochures…these are all components of a company’s marketing mix. All of these were likely created by professional designers to create a cohesive brand. By using off-the-shelf PowerPoint templates and default colors, you introduce a jarring element that detracts from your brand and can make you look unprofessional.

5. Well-designed presentations make you look better prepared.

Presenters who read off of their slides are viewed as time-wasters who don’t know what they’re talking about. If you were presenting and the power suddenly went out, would you be able to continue? Do you know your presentation so well that you could keep talking? You should.

6. Other companies are doing it.

Smart companies invest in their marketing to create cohesive brands and messaging. Al Gore didn’t design his own slides for An Inconvenient Truth, they were created by a presentation design agency. And I’m guessing that Steve Jobs didn’t create his iconic presentations himself.

Professional presentation design gives you an edge over your competition. A presentation designer can create a stunning deck using the latest techniques of animation, video, and audio enhancement. The designer can also let you know when less is more.

Your turn

Do you create your own PowerPoint presentations or do you hire out? What about your keynote, annual meeting, and conference presentations?


How much does it cost to redesign a PowerPoint deck?

February 28, 2012

The money questionPeople always ask me “How much is will it cost to redesign my presentation?” Every design job is different so the costs vary from project to project. I’m not trying to hide a trade secret here, it’s just the way it is. Only after I’ve had a conversation with a potential client and reviewed his deck can I give an accurate estimate on the project cost. In designing PowerPoint presentations for the past twenty years I’ve had projects that have cost between $500–7,500 depending on a large number of variables.

The good news is there are many ways to help keep the costs down on your next PowerPoint redesign project.

It’s all about preparation

Time = money. The more time the designer has to devote to your project, the more it’s going to cost. Here are some things you can do to make sure the designer doesn’t have to spend a lot of extra time on your deck.

  • Do your own copy editing. If you have 500 words on a slide, the designer has to read the slide, determine the main message, take away 99% of your text, then come up with a striking visual to convey your message. Multiply that by the number of text-heavy slides in your deck to get the number of extra billable hours.
  • Have a script or an outline. It’s much easier to design visuals for a script than it is to design a script around visuals. A strong story is essential for a successful presentation.
  • Have just one main idea per slide. Often, people will load tons of text onto a single slide (see above). The designer’s job is to clarify and simplify messages, so each text-heavy slide will need to be broken down into two or more new slides. Again, more copy editing equals higher cost.
  • Give the designer a finished draft. Make sure you and your team have done all you can with your deck before giving it to the designer. If the designer works on slides that you later decide to cut, you’ll still be charged for the time it took to redesign them.
  • Provide a single point of contact. You and your team should discuss edits with each other, not individually with the designer, which causes confusion if conflicting instructions are given.
  • Give as much lead time as possible. If a designer has to work nights and weekends, hire extra staff, or cancel previously scheduled work to meet your tight deadline, it’s going to cost you.

Getting an accurate estimate

The more upfront you are about your needs and expectations, the easier it will be for the designer to provide an accurate time and cost estimate for completing your project. Let the designer review the deck you want redesigned so she can predict any additional costs like those outlined above. And if you are able to provide a cost range that’s within your budget, it will help the designer to figure out how many resources to allocate to each part of the project.


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