Not every picture tells the story

Just before the weekend there was a @WEF tweet that pointed to a post on the World Economic Forum blog. The article, which is quite interesting (at least for a tech guy like me,) explores how the internet looked like in 1973. In these early days, the entire net consisted of just 45 computers and could be mapped out on the back of a napkin.

But what struck me most when I saw this tweet passing by, was the contradicting information in the twitter message and the image attached to it. The picture shows a Macintosh, a Macintosh Plus, and a Macintosh SE. As I was working with Apple Computer during the second half of the eighties, I know for sure that the latter was only launched in 1987, and so there’s a fourteen year lag between the hardware shown and the 1973 internet of the WEF post…

Whether used in a tweet, an article, or a PowerPoint presentation, such a discrepancy between the text and the image creates a conflicting situation in the reader’s or listener’s brain. This doesn’t mean that one should systematically duplicate the content in the visual and textual or auditory messages he’s delivering. As I wrote in one of my older posts, “What you say and what you show,” an image can help you present your message simple and sweet, and make what you show complementary to what you say.

And, while writing the above, I started thinking of what alternative image I would have used instead of the Macs. Mmmmm, forty-five years ago, the internet was probably not that very visually exciting. Therefore, I was thinking of showing a more compelling picture (or even a piece of video.) And, well, a quick Google search taught me that the UK singles top-50 of 8 December 1973 was topped by Slade with “Merry Xmas Everybody.”

If that isn’t a nostalgic piece of seventies eye – and even ear – candy! And it gives a good message for this time of year too. Happy holiday season, dear readers.

Tweet sheet for presenters

With 230 million monthly active users and half a billion tweets sent every day, Twitter is one of today’s most relevant social communication tools.

Probably you don’t have as many fans as Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga yet, but be convinced that Twitter is something that can add real value to (but in certain isolated cases also spoil) your public presentations. Whether you like it or not, quite a number of people in your audience will have their smartphones, phablets and tablets standby during your talk, and use them to send out a tweet when you’re doing of saying something that’s worth broadcasting to their followers.


Here are a few ways to benefit from Twitter during your preparation, presentation and follow-up:

  • Make it easy for the twitterers in the room: design your slide titles and messages for tweetability. Keep them crisp, short and sweet.
  • Inform your audience about your presence on Twitter. Communicate both your ID and (preferably a presentation specific) hash tag early in your speaking slot (or mention it on your first slide). So they can follow you, mention you and reach out about your speech.
  • If you have the technical means on hand, it may also be interesting to install a Twitter wall. To facilitate interaction with the audience, to collect comments and questions during your talk, or to let your listeners socialize with each other.
  • You may also reuse the Twitter IDs you collect to thank the people in the room for being there, connect with them or send them links to additional material.
  • After your presentation, use content curation tools such as Storify to reconstruct and publish a summary of your performance on stage. And, if something positive was tweeted about you or about your presentation, don’t hesitate to retweet it to your followers.

But the presence of twitter addicts in the room may also give you a few reasons to worry:

  • First of all, not everyone is a multi-tasker. So, the guys (or the girls) playing around with their mobile devices may not be paying proper attention to your words or your slides. As such, it’s often a good practice to insert twitter breaks, giving people the time to share their opinion or to upload a photo.
  • Also beware when folks start conducting back channel conversations or –even worse– criticizing your presentation. Either make sure you can read what’s being (re-)tweeted or you have an ally in the room that monitors the conversations.

Other articles about this topic that are worth reading: