Google is growing up. Current CEO Sundar Pichai reported at a 2017 conference that his company is rethinking all of their products, as well as how they communicate to people. What have they concluded is a better way to communicate to both stakeholders and customers? This may not surprise you.
More images and stories.
“Since stories are best told with pictures—bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google,” Pichai said at the conference. Inc. magazine writer Carmine Gallo recalls: “His slides were remarkably uncluttered. The first thing you noticed in his presentation was the large amount of white space on each slide. Just as professional ad designers avoid filling up an entire page with text, Pichai didn’t clutter his slides with extraneous words or numbers.”
The Science Behind Our Brain and Pictures
It is interesting to note that communication is not what we think it is. John Medina, a University of Washington biologist, has done broad research into persuasion and how the brain processes information. His counsel is to get rid of most of your PowerPoint slide decks and start over with fewer words and more pictures. My friend and communication guru, Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it’s too complicated. The key is to simplify with images and let their brains do the rest.
Vision triumphs over all our other senses.
When we pause and consider why this is shrewd, it makes sense. Our brains think in pictures. When I speak to an audience—most people don’t picture the letters or the words I am speaking, but the images they create in their minds. For example, if I talk about walking through the woods, with leaves crunching beneath my feet, listeners picture the trees and the leaves in their minds. Good communicators leverage this, and utilize imagery more often and more intentionally.
In fact, that’s what we remember.
According to his book, Brain Rules, author John Medina says, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.”
So Why Don’t We Communicate with Images Better?
I believe we don’t heed this data because, deep down, we feel that using pictures makes our teaching or speaking less scholarly; not academic enough and too “pop culture.” No one will take us seriously. So, we drone on with loads of words, many of them on a screen behind us. One researcher concluded that, on average, presentation slides contain 40 words. From the beginning of Pichai’s presentation, he didn’t reach 40 words until his 12th slide.
Consider this. If we continue to communicate in this fashion, our words may never get through, much less be remembered. Every message we relay to listeners (especially students) floats into a very crowed world of words. Adolescents take in about 10,000 messages a day, via social media, texts, emails, ads, commercial media and live conversations. Wow. Good luck getting your message through.
We’ve got to leverage the power of images better.
Three Action Steps We Can All Take
So, my advice is simple for teachers, employers, coaches, youth workers or parents. Answering three questions can help enable you to speak in a sticky way:
1. Why? What’s the goal you want to reach through your words?
2. What? What, then, needs to be said in order to reach that goal?
3. How? How can you leverage metaphors, images and stories to make it stick?
I’d love to help you get started in becoming a better communicator. In 2003, I created a curriculum of messages called, “Habitudes®: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.” We now have a library of more than 120 images, each communicating a timeless principle about life, leadership, character and emotional intelligence. They start conversations about grit, discipline, focus, empathy, integrity, you name it. But, because they enable you to teach with images—your message is sticky.
We now enjoy a relationship with 10,000 schools, organizations and sports teams who use these images to make their message stick. We’d love to serve you, too.
My advice is to run your message through the “billboard test.” If your audience was driving by and saw your slide deck, as if it were on a billboard beside a freeway, would they be intrigued by it and would they remember it?