I’ve known about the value of visual images in presentations and in sparking different pathways of thought in the brain. But I really didn’t have any idea what to do about it.
I don’t have any training in visual stuff. I don’t have a vocabulary to talk about it nor any sense of how it really works.
This held me back for a long time.
In the past year or so I’ve met people who know a lot about visuals and how to use them. And I’ve found ways to dip my toe into using more images in my work.
Here is some of what I’ve been learning …
Representation is the hardest thing to do
When I first started thinking about visuals for presentations, I immediately thought that I needed images that represented what I was talking about.
And then I got stuck. What keywords do I use? Is that too representational? How do I find images to illustrate conceptual stuff?
Sometimes I found things but I often got stumped. Later I learned from Christine Martell (who went to art school and has been working with images in education and training for many years) that illustration — the use of images to represent the content — is a very high level skill. (You can hear our whole conversation here.)
If you are similarly frustrated, it’s okay to stop trying to do this. Representational imagery might be the first thing we think of but it is not for beginners.
Starting with images
On top of the sheer difficulty of finding representational images, that whole need to articulate what I was looking for using words seemed inherently wrong. If the whole point of using visuals is that they access different parts of your brain than words do, wasn’t trying to use words to find images a fool’s errand?
Christine came to the rescue. She selects photographs and creates paintings specifically for people like me. She has those advanced skills and uses them to represent concepts and feelings. Or, more accurately, to make/select images that evoke feelings, emotions, and ideas related to even abstract concepts. And she sells those images.
Knowing that she had a lot of useful images, I would start by browsing her gallery and selecting images that might work. Finding a source of images that suits your style and your purposes can make the whole process easier. A limited set of images makes browsing possible. No need to mediate your search with words.
As I worked on my presentations, I went back and forth between images and text refining the whole presentation so that it worked. Then I purchased the digital rights to the images that I wanted to use.
Images help articulate the ideas
Once I’d shifted to browsing images early in the process, I started to notice that the images helped me articulate the ideas I wanted to convey. Sometimes I did use representational images. The difference is that I found the image first.
For example, seeing an image of a chocolate box while I was working on a presentation about career options made my mind go “bing”. The image inspired a metaphor that proved crucial to an important section of the presentation.
Other metaphors might have worked equally well. I could have struggled (without images) to come up with the perfect metaphor, refined my text to use it well, and then looked for the perfect image (and been frustrated at how hard it is to find an actual image that looked like what was in my head). But finding the image first made the whole process a lot easier.
Not only do the images help the people listening to the presentation, they helped make the process of preparing the presentation much easier. My brain was sparked in different ways by the images.
My experiments with images in presentations increased my confidence. I’d had positive feedback about the images. And I’d started using some of those images in blog posts, too.
So I started exploring the other tools Visuals Speak has to offer. I bought the Icebreaker Kit. It’s affordable. I figured I might have a use for it. It comes with an instruction manual which is not at all condescending but gives me a lot of ideas of how I can use these things in workshops.
I played with it on my own. I keep the images on my desk and just look at them. I had a conversation with Christine about how to use them. (She recorded it and you can listen on the website.)
The more I look at them the more I see in each image. The more I get used to just looking at images, the more comfortable I am with using them in my work.
But I do most of my work virtually
The main drawback and taking this further was that I do most of my coaching over the phone. How do I use images in my work if we aren’t physically in the same space.
WOW! That is all I can say about this. Using the images in a mock session during the demo was eye-opening. And the tool itself is so easy to use I could actually imagine using it with clients.
The thing I most want to help you with is helping you have the academic career you’d really like. That means cutting through all the static created by obligations and rumours about obligations to identify what your personal scholarly goals are. Then we can work out how to pursue those while still meeting your professional obligations.
Well, I’m telling you that Image Center tool is going to make that first part so much better. I can see how images could help spark things that words are struggling with. And I have a way of working with you even when we are kilometres away from each other.
I’ve also got some baby ideas about how to use images to conduct workshops (live or online). And future iterations of the Conscious Career course might use it, too.
Can you help?
I have a couple of trial sessions to play with to figure out how it works. If you’ve been thinking about working with me but were hesitating for some reason, send me an e-mail telling me why you’d like to help me figure out how to use these tools. What could I help you with? What are you struggling with? And why have you been hesitating?
In case you are wondering, I don’t get any money for promoting Visuals Speak products. I am just really excited about the possibilities.