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Using quotes in your slides to support your story

Sudo_1Displaying quotes in your presentation slides can be a very powerful technique. Depending on the presentation, I often use quite a few quotes from various fields to support my points.

When I first saw Tom Peters live many years ago, I was happy to see that he used a great deal of quotes from various experts, authors, and industry leaders. Using quotes in his presentation visuals is a big deal for Tom. In fact it is number 18 on his "Presentation Excellence 56":

18. Slides: Good quotes from the field. (Remember you’re “telling a story”)

Commenting on why he uses so many PowerPoint slides containing quotes, Tom says:

"...my conclusions are much more credible when I back them up with Great Sources. I say pretty radical stuff. I say "Get radical!" That's one thing. But then I show a quote from Jack Welch, who, after all, ran a $150 billion company (I didn't): "You can't behave in a calm, rational manner; you've got to be out there on the lunatic fringe." Suddenly my radicalism is "certified" by a "real operator." Also, I find that people like to get beyond the spoken word, and see a SIMPLE reminder of what I'm saying." (Read more from this post by Tom Peters.)

Download Tom's "PE56" PowerPoint slides

Quotes can indeed add credibility to our story. Slides containing quotes also serve as guides or "reminders" to keep us and our story on track. A simple quote is a good springboard from which you can launch your next talking point, though you need practice to pull it off smoothly. Quotes should be short in most cases since it can become quite tedious when a presenter reads a paragraph from a screen.

Below are samples from some of my recent presentations. When I read these quotes, I usually can keep my eyes on the audience at all times since the quotes are short enough to be easily memorized. I can easily catch the graphic (such as the head shot of Albert Einstein) which appears next to the quote with just a quick glance of my peripheral vision. The graphic is for the benefit of the audience, but it also helps me instantly recognize the content of the slide without having to really look at the slide.

Mckinsey        Badppt

If I am quoting from a book, I will often include an image of the book cover.

Suzuki       Simplicity

A simple image is used for the slide on the left. For the slide on the right, what could be simpler than...no image at all?

Art_b      Mingus_1

I often look to different fields for inspiring comments. In this case, Jazz.

Tom_3       Nasa

Two more examples.

Tank      Al    

On the left is a slide that would not be unusual today. On the right is a more professional treatment of the quotation.

Lightning       High_voltage

I first learned of Henry Boettinger's 1969 book, Moving Mountains, from Cliff Atkinson's excellent presentation blog. Here, Cliff uses the quote that I placed in the two slides above. Cliff used this quote in his web seminar while showing a good visual which evoked the feelings of "high voltage" and "connection" (or "conversation"). As Cliff mentions here, in the actual web seminar, he used the quote sans any text in the visual. This worked fine, but usually (not always) it is better to have the quote appear on screen. However, as Cliff points out, using "...a range of approaches in a live presentation environment" is best.

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