The 10 Worst Images to Put in Your Presentation (What to Use Instead)

You’ve probably heard experts recommend that you use images in your PowerPoint for better impact. An image says more than a thousand words, and research results are consistent that the human brain retains images better than text.

But not all images are created equal. Just as there are visual assets that can make your message, there are just as many clichéd and overused image concepts that might just as well break it. When stock photos are good, they’re really good. But when they’re bad, they’re bad. Really bad.

Pickit, a Microsoft add-in devoted to helping people bring their words to life with images, has conducted a research to pinpoint the 10 single worst images that fail to communicate ideas and engender indifference or even antipathy on the part of the audience.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders that you should leave out of your presentations in 2019:

Aren't we successful? 

An image of a woman drawing arrow in the air with her finger.a

Want to know how to spot a truly successful business person? They can draw shiny arrows in the air with their finger like E.T. himself. It’s quite the skill.

Business people on a running track 


What exactly is this image supposed to represent? Plus, everybody knows you didn’t run in these heels.

Abstract 3D figures 


This little white figure has been finding its way to people’s slides since the 90s. It’s time we send it to retirement.

The corporate money plant


Because generating economic growth is just like growing a carrot. Honest.

The handstack


Do you start you working day at the office the same way? Since as everyone knows, the most successful teams start their days with a huddle and a hand-stack.

The happy customer service agent


Sometimes referred to as “The Headset Hottie”, this is the too-good-to-be-true receptionist every company needs. Nothing says customer service like a squeaky-clean smile, especially on the phone.

Archery targets


There are, actually, other ways to illustrate a target as well.

Thumbs up


How often are you in the workplace shooting a thumbs up at your coworkers? It’s one of those weird poses we turn to when someone points a camera at us unexpectedly and we don’t know what to do.

Random buzz words


Unless you want to be a generic brand, you should consider keeping away from these generic word clouds.

And last but not least…

The Handshake


Nothing says “cheesy” like a close-up of a handshake. While still holding its position as one of the most-used image concepts in the world of presentations, it’s also the least inspiring of them all. It’s soon 2019. Just stop it already.

The Prescribed Alternative

Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of using at least one of these bad stock photo examples in a presentation, and there’s a good reason for that – they illustrate concepts that often need to be communicated. So, what images to use instead?

One technique that Pickit has found to be consistently successful is that of ‘visual subtext’, which means images that the audience needs to process before understanding fully. By activating your listeners to think, the image has far more resonance and impact; therefore reinforcing the message the presenter is looking to share.

If starting a new venture, for example, an image of a chicken and egg could contain the symbolism and visual subtext of starting something from scratch. Similarly, if launching a partnership with a separate organization, an image of matching salt and pepper shakers might reinforce the feeling of ‘togetherness’ without appealing to clichés.

Next time, replace the handshake for this. You would have your idea metaphorically supported and enough space to even put a keyword.

Another successful alternative is to use your own real-life imagery. Giving your audience the opportunity to glimpse into your actual life by using authentic photos will make them feel connected to you. Therefore, they will pay more attention to your talk.

For example, instead of showing a photo of “the headset hottie”, why not use an actual photo of an employee? You could also say a few words about what they do. Instead of the cliché corporate team photo, why not introduce your audience to your actual team? Instead of showing the generic performance increase chart, why not show a real statistic that makes your offering more compelling?

A general rule when adding an image into your presentation is to ask yourself these questions: “Is this image realistic? Does it support my message? Is it representing something my audience can relate to?”. Just a little bit of extra time and effort could make the difference between people falling asleep at your presentation and receiving a standing ovation.

The Pickit Images add-in for Office contains hundreds of professionally curated collections of images leveraging visual subtext for maximum impact. Oh, and if you really happen to need a handshake, they’ve got that, too.

If you want to learn how to create more productive and effective presentations, check out our online course – PowerPoint Tips & Tricks.