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Using Visuals Effectively in a PowerPoint Presentation

Using Visuals Effectively in a PowerPoint Presentation

According to researchers, when people are presented with vivid images, they will remember 95% of what they see and hear. Filling your presentation with strong visuals is key in ensuring your audience leaves remembering your main points; here’s how to pack your PowerPoint with the best images.

Avoid cliché stock photos

Not all stock photos are bad, but some give off very cheesy, posed, cliché or cheap vibes. It can be tricky to pick out the good ones in a world filled with millions of stock photos; however, we have a few tips that will help you navigate your iStock or GettyImages libraries to find the best images for your slides. Our first tip is to avoid any pictures that feel overly posed: people throwing their hands in the air in celebration, high fives that don’t look natural, a person deep in thought with their hand on their chin and a furrowed brow. You get the idea. It’s also important to pay attention to the lighting in the image. Really bright and flat lighting screams stock; opt for more moody or dynamic lighting to take your visuals to the next level.

Instead of this:

cliche stock photo

Try this:

unique photo

Compress your images, but make sure they stay sharp

From the start, you should be using high resolution images on your slides (at least 1980 by 1080 pixels); however, if you use a bunch of high res pictures throughout the deck, you’ll end up with a pretty huge file once you’re saving out your final PowerPoint design. This is when the “Compress Image” tool comes in handy. Just double click the image you want to compress, click the Compress Image icon, and choose which Picture Quality you want (we recommend On Screen for in-person presentations). Once you’ve compressed your images, be sure to run through the deck again and double check that none of the pictures are fuzzy or pixelated.

image compression

Limit your image per slide count

One of the most common mistakes we see with images in PowerPoint is using too many on a single slide. Often, people will try to add a picture for each bullet point or detail on their slide, resulting in small images that can hardly be seen by the audience. Not only does this make the slide harder to scan, but now your audience is distracted trying to figure out what the pictures are instead of listening to your content!

The best way to optimize your image use is to stick to one high quality image per slide or idea. For every image in your presentation, ask yourself “does this photo add to the point I’m making?”

If the answer is no, cut it!

If you need multiple images on one slide, use a grid

There may be times when you can’t follow the one-image-per-slide rule and will need to use multiple photos on a slide; when this happens, utilize grids and create a collage of images, rather than haphazardly placing photos wherever there’s room on the slide. Use the Gridlines feature in the View tab in PowerPoint to line up and place your images in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Now get out there and take your PowerPoint designs to the next level.

Mix it up with icons

There are more ways to add images to a slide than using photographs. One of our favorite ways to make slides more visual while also giving the content a boost is by using icons to reinforce a point.

Icons are simple illustrations that typically represent a singular concept. Icons are usually simple line illustrations that can clearly convey an idea at a glance. Unlike photographs, you can add multiple icons to a slide without overloading the visuals (careful, though, you can still overdo it with icons).

Icons are great for replacing a line of text with a simple visual, or to help clarify a point without adding extra words.


Images are one of the best ways to grab an audience’s attention and ensure the content and message of your presentation are clear. They make slides more interesting to look at, and can turn even a dry presentation into a powerful story. Best of all, you don’t need to be a design expert to get the benefits of images in your presentation!

Now get out there and take your PowerPoint designs to the next level.

For a deeper dive into using images in presentations, check out our Images 101 post.

Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new details on best practices for visuals in presentations

Looking for more information about presentation visuals and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Danielle John is the founder of VerdanaBold. She has more than 25 years as an award-winning designer and creative lead, directing the visual expression and production of thousands of high-value new business pitches, C-level presentations and internal presentations for major global brands. When she’s not busy at VerdanaBold, she can be found antique shopping and spending time with her husband and two kids.



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