For many of us Powerpoint and other types of presentation software have become vital to accomplishing our professional goals. Because of its ubiquity, there are piles of advice sites out there which discuss the proper ways to utilize this powerful tool. Rather than walking you through a list of tips about font size, wordiness, background color, and pointless animations, I wanted to focus this post very narrowly on the subject of using images in Powerpoint slides. Users of other presentation programs like Open Office’s Impress or Mac’s Keynote should note that all of the advice included in this post applies to those programs as well.
For the most part adding images to your presentation is desperately easy. If you’ve done any work at all with these programs, you almost certainly know that you can add an image using the “insert” feature. Once the image has been placed on your slide, you can drag it to any location or alter its size by clicking on it and dragging the sizing handles which appear at its edges.
What even the seasoned presentation maker might not know is why some of your images look fine on your computer screen but look terrible when displayed on the projector. I recently attended a job talk where the candidate repeatedly apologized to the assembled crowd because their view of his images wasn’t nearly as crisp as what he was seeing. Of course, this isn’t seen as a cardinal sin of making presentations. It’s merely viewed as an unfortunate limitation of our technology. I’ve made that very same apology to students when showing images as a lecturer or in discussion sections. That said. You can avoid this presentation pitfall in the first place.