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Avoiding Cliché Visuals in Your Next Presentation

Increasingly, energy managers must present ideas to groups of people. Whether it’s proving return on investment for an upcoming purchase, sharing the results of an energy efficiency project, or enlisting coworkers to conserve energy, these ideas are important. 


Images of all types are valuable for communicating meaning and adding clarity to a presentation. A picture is worth a thousand words (cliché alert!), but few energy management professionals have been trained in maximizing the visual impact of presentations. Today’s blog offers suggestions for avoiding clichés in your presentation visuals.

Stock Photos—Identifying the Cliché

Stock photos can be wonderful tools to support your ideas, as pictures can convey meaning, create inspiration, and draw people together in ways that words cannot. Your audience may be more likely to remember the pictures you show than the words you speak. However, not all pictures are created equal. There’s a difference between fresh photos and cliché photos. 

You know what I mean by cliché photos. Cliché photos are those tired and worn photos that are circling the globe in presentation after presentation. Their first few appearances were effective, but then they got overdone and lost their power. If you “listen” to them, they would be saying, “Try something new…we’re tired!”

Here are some examples of cliché photos. How many times have you seen these photos (or variations of them) in business communications?

The “Target” or “Goal” Cliché


The “Team” or “Partnership” Cliché


The “Leaving A Legacy” Cliché


Due to their overuse, cliché photos quietly tell the audience, “This presentation is going to be like every other presentation” or “You aren’t worth the presenter’s time to make this interesting” or “The presenter must not care too much about his idea.” 

Stock Photos—Finding the Fresh

Of course no presenter sets out to place cliché, overused, and impotent photos into their presentations, so how do they get there? And more importantly, how can you avoid them when planning your presentation? Here are four suggestions:

Avoid Standalone Images

Avoid placing an image in your presentation for its own sake. Remember, the image is there to support your idea. If you think you need a kitten, make sure it logically reinforces your idea. You should be able to trace every visual back to a concept you’re trying to illustrate. Resist the temptation to lead folks off course visually for the sake of diversion or entertainment.

Throw Out Your First Impression

The reason cliché photos exist is because presenter after presenter goes with his or her first impression. To avoid cliché photos, throw out your first impression. Think of it as a valuable starting place, but don’t regard it as the end.

Brainstorm Related Concepts

Start with the concept (target or legacy, for example) and brainstorm related concepts. Make a list, paying attention to the visual images that your concepts suggest. Ideally do this in a small group, and write down as many related ideas as you can. Fresh ideas for more relevant and compelling images will spring from this exercise.

Plan Time For Creativity

As you plan your preparation schedule, make sure to include time for creativity. This may take more time than you think, so plan accordingly. Remember that creative elements aren’t just empty luxuries; they can be powerful and persuasive catalysts for your cause. If you’re not naturally creative, enlist others to help you polish your presentation.

Utilizing these simple steps, we replaced cliché photos with fresh ones. Which photos make a bigger impact on you–the cliche version above or the fresh one below?

Target or Goal


Team or Partnership


Leaving a Legacy


Your idea deserves the best opportunity to be heard, so choose fresh photos over cliché ones. Your audience will thank you…and so will your idea.

To learn other practical tips for powerful presentations, watch the recorded webinar!