One Thousand Words

Sitting through a presentation of slides with nothing but text is a torture bordering cruel punishment. popular instruction beyond the basics of how to create slide decks emphasize the importance of graphics. Presenters face challenges finding inexpensive images to really make their learning or persuasion points powerfully. Learning about and finding public domain and Creative Common licensed images liberate presenters from corny clip art and open a world of high quality pictures, clip art, and video free from fees and royalties.

The Licenses

Public domain is the least restrictive level of licensing for any work. Something that is in the public domain is a work of intellectual property with an expired copyright, or released by the author into the public domain. Works commissioned by the U. S. Government and many educational institutions release works as public domain. Anyone may use them for any non commercial purpose for free. One may encounter advertising restrictions when images contain recognizable persons.

Creative Commons licenses come in several varieties. You can find the details of each at Generally a work released under a Creative Commons license is free to use for many purposes. The originator may choose to require an acknowledgment, limit modifications, limit commercial use, or any combination. Many times you can use works simply by providing credit to the creator or photographer which is a best using any reference not of your own creation.

Where to Find the Images

My readers will find I frequently use for most of the images that appear in my posts. I frequently turn to flickr for my slide Flickr is the big name, but not the only source for free images. Google Images provides access to lots of images. Like flickr, not all are free, but like flickr, you can filter your search result to show just public domain or Creative Commons images.Google.PNG images are all Creative Commons licensed with no use restrictions. That means anyone can use or remix any image for any legal purpose according to the website. pxhere.PNGClip art is more difficult to find, but a good source is All images are open source. Users should familiarize themselves with the restrictions of each type of license before using images from any source.

Decks of death should be something of the past. Good presenters use images to make their points. Everyone knows a picture is worth 1000 words. Why fill your slide with boring text when an inspiring image communicates your message better? Learn to find and use free images published in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license and avoid accusations of subjecting others to cruel and unusual punishment during your next presentation.

– – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits

After lunch meeting —

Screen shot of search by author

Screen shot of by author

Screen shot of by author



Don’t Kill Your Audience with a Deck of Death


Today’s Topic

“Hi. I’m your expert instructor here to teach you how to be an expert almost as good as me. Next slide.”


“So you can see here all that we are going to cover over our period of training. I’m sure you will notice that I have done all I reasonably can to remove any fun we might have learning this material because I did it all on my slide deck. Next slide.”


“I made sure to include some learning goals because everyone expects them, but we really are not going to talk about anything like this; don’t worry, it is all in the slide deck because I am such an expert on this topic. Next slide.”


Anyone still awake, or have you all succumb to the slide deck of death? To often, out-of-town experts are hired to train people whose only real expertise lies in preparing really cool slide decks. There is more to training however than a wiz-bang slide show, especially if the topic is mostly information known to the students. Slides have become the go-to choice for training because they provide consistency across a variety of training presentations regardless of the ability of the instructor or the knowledge of the students. There are other forms of media available for instructors to communicate ideas and guide discussions. Learning to use them well improves your presentation.


These two forms of media are often overlooked for a variety of reasons including poor penmanship, artistic ability of the trainer, and lack of standardization over multiple presentations. The biggest reason is a lack of imagination. Several years ago I learned a little trick to improve my drawing ability in Richard Neil’s book, Police Instructor. Neil suggests creating an image in your favorite graphics program them projecting it onto your paper. Using a #2 pencil, lightly trace the lines. When you reach the point in your presentation to introduce the sketch, grab your marker and draw away while you talk to your students. You end up with the same image from class to class and impress your students with both your knowledge and artistic ability.

I used this secret in an instructor development class I was teaching to explain the training cycle. I asked one of the students to step up to the easel and sketch out a diagram of the cycle while I talked about it. He was a bit apprehensive until he was close enough to the board to see the lines. The class was equally impressed with mine and the student’s knowledge of the cycle, and the secret, once it was revealed. Two lessons in one, how to improve your use of media and improve your understanding of the training cycle, a grand slam!

It may not be possible to recreate a fancy drawing or diagram on a white board in the same way, but for basic imagery it is a great tool. Create lists revealing one point at a time so students are not overwhelmed with information. Alternate colors so students can track lines easier. Practice so your writing is recognizable to others. Simple diagrams that are well thought out ahead of time are easy to draw on a white board with lines and arrows to make connections with thoughts that are expressed in text. Try it out in your next class; you might be surprised how it catches your students attention.


Posters seem like they have gone the way of the dodo bird. They are a great tool to ensure continuity from class to class. They work even when the projector bulb doesn’t. Use dry erase markers to high light important words or ideas on laminated posters.  This technique helps make connections between ideas.

You can create posters using a professional service, or in your living room using markers. Boil down your ideas down to the most essential elements to reduce the number of them. Too many posters end up being nothing more than a low tech slide deck that you have to lug around. The more you have, the heavier they are!


Too many people use boxed PEs they like from other classes. Using the general format and adapting it to meet your needs however allows you to end up with a product unique to yourmarshmallowtower-marktighe class that is designed specifically to meet your training objectives. Good practical exercises are copied by instructors because designing them is tough work. The first time you have a student build a pasta tower to the ceiling and perches his or her marshmallow at the top, you realize it is better to use your own ideas to reinforce your learning points.

Good exercises challenge students to apply the lessons you teach. They make students think critically about using new skills in familiar situations. They provide students the confidence to adapt your lessons in their every day life, changing their habits and behaviors, and that’s what training is supposed to be about, changing behaviors.


Video Clips are great to introduce problems, demonstrate your point, show how to complete an activity, or as part of a practical exercise. Too often trainers use videos as the basis for their entire training, instead of supporting their training and learning points. There are plenty of good videos available on any of the video host web sites. If you are using video for an educational purpose then it should spur discussions and questions about topics related to your learning goals. If not, then it is entertainment and you may have problems with copyright laws. If your video does all the teaching, then students are unlikely to see you as the expert you profess to be.


Next slide please.  Slide decks have become an important part of the training landscape. Slide decks are not going away soon. Trainers communicate better using other forms of media instead of only using slides. Other forms of media require trainers to think about the points they want students to learn. Each media offers opportunities to engage students, keeping their attention to improve learning outcomes. Posters, chart paper, white boards, practical exercises, and video clips each offer instructors opportunities to break away from the slide deck and improve learning. Each form of media has pros and cons. Use a variety of media in your training to break up the boredom of the slide deck and show your students you really are an expert.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits

Author except the marshmallow tower.  Marshmallow tower by Mark Tighe under Creative Commons Attribution license from

Better Presentations

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a terrific training presented by Jon Blum of Force Concepts. One thing that set his training apart from others I have attended was his slide deck. He followed two simple rules to keep his slide simple and effective. With some thoughtful planning, a little research and some practice with layout your next presentation can benefit from the same principals Jon employed. The first principle is minimize text. The second is maximize images. Image
The original popular presentation software PowerPoint was named so to help presenters make the points of their presentations powerfully. They were intended to be short and sweet. A common rule is to limit the text on a slide to six words per line and no more than six lines per slide. Often presenters read their slides verbatim which defeats the point of inserting the bullet point on the screen. The audience can read. They came to your presentation to hear what you have to say. If the only thing you say is what is written on your slides, they could have stayed in their offices and read your work. I suggest that you tell your group what your want to say, pause then show the slide and allow them to read the text on their own. The points on your slide should emphasize what you said.
Another great thing Jon did in his presentation was the way he presented the text on the slide. First he discussed the point. Next he showed the text and led a discussion about the point. Upon conclusion of the discussion on that point, he introduced the next point and then revealed the text. The previous line remained visible, but the font was in a light shade of gray drawing the viewer’s eye to the current point. Identifying the few simple words that effectively communicate the idea behind the point of discussion requires you to identify the principals and key points of your presentations.
How many times have you said or hear that a picture is worth 1,000 words; at least a thousand? How many pictures have you seen in a slide presentation? I would guess the answer is few. Today images are inexpensive and plentiful. Choices include charts, graphs, clip art and photographs. Websites such as, and have a large selection of photos to purchase, within the public domain or under the Creative Commons license. Sometimes finding the right photo or image on line is time consuming, but with the advent of digital photography and paint software you can create your own images that convey your message. The images I use to attract readers to my blog are my own creations or images I found on line available under the Creative Commons license for use by only providing attribution to the person who took the photo.
When selecting an image, pick one that communicates your message. You may use a few words to ensure your point is understood or to ask a question to start a discussion. If you use text with your image, keep it shorter than the suggestions offered above.
Following simple rules improve the slides you use in your presentations. Reduce the text on your slide. Use pictures and communicate 1,000 words without uttering a syllable. It may not always be possible to limit your idea to six words or to one picture, but with practice implementing these principals becomes second nature. As you prepare your next presentation, add a few extra pictures and subtract some words. Your audience will be grateful.

For a more detailed disucssion about improving your presentations, check out my Prezi at Another great resource is  Update 3/15/14:  57 slides in 18 minutes…exact amount of text during the presentation…zero!!!!

Photo credit: Kei Kondo