7 types of visuals you can use in your presentation slides


In almost every blog post/video I create, I mention (i.e., type-scream in your face) you should be adding a lot of visuals to your presentations. I even have an entire post focused on reasons why you should use visuals in your presentations.

That's a lot of "why" you need visuals. So, it seemed like it was time for me to write a list of "what" visuals you should add in your academic, evaluation, or scientific presentation. 


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 1. Stock photos

What I mean by "stock photo" is that it's a photo of something real (people, building, animal, nature) that you didn't take. So, you found it online for free or paid for it. That means that others might use it too (not something I care about though).

A few years ago, stock photos meant all white, mostly men giving you a cheesy thumbs up. Luckily, that's not the case anymore. Now, there are several websites that have high quality, non-cheesy, excellent stock photos -- some of which are free. Unsplash is a popular one right now. Women of Color in Tech Chat via Flickr is one of the best (attribution required). 


I think you'll agree that none of these are cheesy -- and they're all free stock photos I found. These examples are from social media posts I made, but they'd make great visuals on slides.


Speaking of free stock photos, I've noticed that a lot of people incorrectly use the terms "royalty free" as interchangeable with "cost free." Royalty free means you don't have to pay the creator each time you use it or make money from it, but you usually still have to pay for the initial license. Cost free means you never had to pay for it, but there may be other license requirements, like giving credit (attribution) every time you use it.

A lot of researchers, academics, and scientists also think that just because they're using photos for education (i.e., non-profit use), they're exempt from copyright laws. That's also not true. Copyright law applies to everyone.

Also *screams into the void* using Google Photos is like the WORST way to find photos! There is a more effective AND efficient way! 

I explain more about that --and share links to my favorite FREE PHOTO websites -- in my email course, Create Your Visual Database.

2. Your own photos

I see a lot of people using stock photos, so you probably already knew about them. One thing I rarely see is presenter's own photos, and that's a huge missed opportunity.

Some of the best photos I use are ones I took myself. And, no, I'm not an expert photographer and many of my photos would not look good on a slide. But, when I do take a gem, I try to use it in my slides.

One of my favorite examples is this pic I snapped of my two dogs -- Biscuit (left) and Sage (right) -- that I used to explain inter-rater reliability. 


3. Your own drawings & illustrations

If you haven't used your own drawings or illustrations in your slides, then both you and your audience is missing out. Sometimes, it's impossible to find a visual that works for your slide. When it's an important point you want to make, or when you want to connect/resonate with your audience, then your own doodles can come to the rescue.


I know what you're thinking: "LOL NO WAY, I suck at drawing!"

So what? What does that have to do with anything? If you can draw a recognizable shape, that's all that matters. And tbh, that's all you need. It doesn't need to be (shouldn't be) a work of art anyway because that would just be distracting. 

But, if you're really worried about it, I can train you on how to draw for presentations, or I could create your illustrations for you. Interested? Email me at echo@echorivera.com 

I also know you're thinking: "But that isn't professional."

OK. This whole myth of "being professional" seriously gets in the way of my peaceful protest against #DeathByPowerpoint. Hand drawings are more likely to catch the attention of your audience than a great stock photo or any other type of visual. I'm still waiting for a legitimate argument that being ineffective and boring at presenting is somehow professional.

4. Icons

You can make your own, insert them using PowerPoint (if you have Office 365), or find them online. They're really helpful for creating organization in your presentations.

I also love to use them for interactive moments, like this one. Also, the hand didn't have rings--I added those using shapes :) 


5. Gifs

Gifs are a great way to add some fun and surprise in your presentation. I rarely use them, because when I do use them I want to make a really big impact. 

Use a gif when you want to evoke a strong emotion in your audience, like actually make them lol. They are perfect for when you want the audience to FEEL how you felt--when you were really excited or really disappointed in something. 

You can also create your own gifs using your illustrations! Here is one I made that makes it into most of presentation training webinars. 


(Again, I can train you on how to do this, or I can make one for you!)

6. Memes

If you don't use memes in your presentations, then you're missing out. Nothing says "this is new content" like an updated meme. But you don't just have to use new memes -- there are some classics that resonate for years. Many of them can be easily adapted to an academic, scientific, or evaluation topic. 


7. Videos

Finally, You can also embed videos into your slides. I'll admit, this is something I don't do very much, especially now that I have a YouTube Channel of my own (when you download and embed videos, the channel doesn't get the view stats). Plus, I've run into glitches before (or an impatient audience!). Still, it's worth adding to the list. 

Notice what didn't make the list?

Clip art, smart art, word clouds, and template designs.

Unless you're a linguist and your word cloud is part of your results, delete it (I've literally NEVER seen a good word cloud in a presentation -- including the ones I used in the past!). Delete ALL clip art, and remake that smart art yourself.

And templates? Well, I've covered that extensively elsewhere, like in this video

There are a lot of nuances and more things to know about what visuals to use, when to use them, and how to use them effectively.

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with joy,
Dr. Echo Rivera