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Make the Perfect Presentation: 5 Lessons From Steve Jobs's Innovative Use of Imagery

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Steve Jobs reshaped the landscape of technology and design during his lifetime, and the impact of his vision lives on inside the work of millions of his disciples. One of Jobs's most essential and effective discoveries was that "People process information visually," as author Carmine Gallo put it. When Jobs gave presentations, he made sure to include images whenever possible to accompany his spoken words. New Apple head Tim Cook has heeded Jobs's message and has filled his presentations with pictures. And countless others have done the same. Here are five ways that Jobs changed the way we think about presentations, and how you can improve yours by following Jobs's lead:

1. Make your pictures memorable

If you really want people to digest and recall your points, then researchers recommend you're better off going with stock photos. "The picture superiority effect says that pictures are remembered better than words, especially when people are casually exposed to the information and the exposure is for a very limited time," according to Presentation Zen. Graphics connect with people, a skill that Jobs mastered. Next time, instead of restating your points on slides, use visual representations to keep the image on people's minds long afterward.

2. Keep it simple

Although images are proven to work better, that doesn't mean you should fill your slides with them. Having too many visual aids all at once will wind up posing a distraction for the audience, who might not be so sure where to focus at a given time. Do what Jobs did: Select one image per slide and display it prominently to underscore the topic at hand. If you can't speak louder than the images beside you, swap it out for something more subtle.

3. Pick the right backdrop

Beyond choosing compelling and memorable images, consider the effect that the background might have on the viewer. What kind of mood does a white background project? How can you spice up the slides to show more of a narrative? Jobs found a simple way to add transitions to his presentations. "He heightens interest by occasionally just leaving an empty blue screen," said Sean Silverthorne at CBS News. During those moments, Jobs would address the audience directly, without distraction. This color wasn't picked at random either -- Jobs's patented black turtleneck and blue Jeans look stood out against the screen behind him.

4. Get creative with pictures

It's not as simple as substituting in a picture for a bullet point and throwing a colorful background on it. Jobs was a master at telling a story with his slides, leading the audience on a journey from start to finish and delivering necessary information along the way. "When Steve Jobs unveiled the Macbook Air, Apple's ultra-thin notebook computer, he showed a slide of the computer fitting inside a manila inter-office envelope," noted Michael Gass at DesignTaxi. You should aspire to do the same with your presentations. Don't just introduce your viewers to the product or material; show them the best features, uses and purpose.

5. Help yourself

Steve Jobs's notes from when he announced the first iPhone surfaced earlier this month, and they provide a glimpse into the mind of the Apple genius. Jobs's outline shows just how much he could store in his own head and didn't require to put on paper. But what stands out most from the notes are the small orange, green, and blue icons in the border of the pages. Even if you're the only one who will ever see your personal notes, you should still find a way to animate the pages. With some colorful icons staring back at you, it will inspire you to find a more colorful way to describe your project. Traditional black and white won't as easily raise your level of excitement. And it all starts with you.

This article originally ran on Shutterstock's blog.

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