How a holiday snap might be worth a thousand bullet points



Over the past few years we have noticed that conference organisers increasingly ask presenters to show fewer slides and make them more ‘dynamic’ or ‘interesting’. Guidelines may feature such pithy phrases as ‘less is more’ or exhort presenters to ‘avoid death by bullet point syndrome.’

This is, indeed, a refreshing development from the audience’s point of view. It’s certainly true that a well-chosen image that either illustrates the content of the talk or reinforces a key concept can linger in the memory years later. However, all too often it’s easier and quicker to prepare tens of slides of bullet points in a striving to ensure that the audience receives every last nugget of the presenter’s wisdom. Furthermore, trawling the Web for images that are not only evocative but are also licensed for reuse is no trivial task, particularly if presentations have to be made available online.

One solution is to use images that carry a Creative Commons licence. However, there are restrictions in that some CC licences are incompatible with each other. If you want to adapt an image in some way, or to combine (‘remix’) it with one or more other images to create a new one, it can be confusing to work out what you can and can’t do. We offer here a couple of ways round the problem.

First, you can consult the simple Creative Commons Licence Compatibility Wizards from OER IPR Support. They are invaluable if you:

  • have several images with different CC licences and want to know whether you can combine them into your presentation, or
  • are required to release your presentation under a specific CC licence and you want to know which other CC licences are compatible with it.

The other alternative – and the one that gives rise to the title of this article – is to look in your own photo collection. For example, in a presentation about open educational resources (OER) I wanted to convey the contrast between the low volume of OER compared with other resources available on the Web. A photo of a sweetshop snapped on a bicycle tour of Tasmania looked as though it would fit the bill with a little embellishment, and the result is shown below. I gave the photo a CC licence of its own in case anyone else might find it useful, and at least one colleague subsequently reused it.

I always hope that the audience will be so relieved not to see a slide of bullet points that they'll overlook the artistic shortcomings of my photos!

I always hope that the audience will be so relieved not to see a slide of bullet points that they’ll overlook the artistic shortcomings of my photos!

For expert guidance on designing engaging and effective presentations, the IT Learning Programme offers a half-day course on Presentation Design. This term it’s taking place from 2-5pm on  Thursday 2nd June: book your place at

If you want try out an alternative to PowerPoint, there’s just time to book for this term’s Prezi course from 2-5pm on Thursday 12th May: However, if you’ve missed the boat this time, use the same link to express an interest in attending the course on a future date.

Image credits:
Top: CC BY Thomas von Hassel via Flickr
Bottom: CC BY Liz Masterman (The ‘CC’ icon added to the photo is in the public domain.)


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