Your Visual Biography

Looking for an exercise to trigger your visual thinking? Look no further than yourself.

When you join a Toastmasters speaking program, you start out on a pathway of completing a series of 10 speeches that develop different areas of your speaking skills. You begin with the “Icebreaker”, in which you introduce yourself to the group by describing your own life story in 5-7 minutes.

It’s hard enough to distill down your complicated life into only a few minutes, but could you boil it down even further to only a single PowerPoint slide? That was the challenge I presented myself recently for a talk where I had to give a brief self-introduction. So I Googled a few keywords and came up with a single slide to trigger my own story. Each of these five images faded in as I reached the corresponding point in my visual script:

1. Texas fades in: I was born and grew up in Texas (I know, I don’t have an accent).
2. Jet fades in: Then I joined the Air Force and served for six years in Spain and Germany (no, I didn’t fly planes — I was a public affairs officer).bio
3. British flag fades in: Afterwards, I moved to London to study for an MBA in international business (the food is getting better there),
4. Bomb fades in:… then moved to San Francisco and worked in marketing for a couple of dot-coms (Insert audience chuckles here).
5. PowerPoint box fades in: The first time I encountered PowerPoint was when I used it to create an animated music video to describe my dot-com experiences, and through that experience I realized there were limitless possibilities for creative communication with this versatile media tool, if we could only move beyond bullets. (Now fade into the topic of the talk…)

When I tried it out the other day, I found that these simple images allowed me to improvise and tailor themes from my life events into the themes of that particular talk and the audience’s interests.

What can you reveal about yourself, with just a few simple images? Try it out for yourself:

Tip: Introduce yourself at your next presentation with a visual biography. Open up a blank PowerPoint slide, then search Google Images for 5 images that represent key events, themes, or phases of your life. Compose them left to right as in the example above, or try a different layout. Animate each visual element to Fade in as you talk about that part of your life. If it works, try composing a visual biography to introduce your organization. Before you know it, your whole life might just be illuminated with visual thinking.

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6 Responses to “Your Visual Biography”

  1. Visual biography

    Someone blogged recently to recommend Cliff Atkinson’s blog. Cliff has a very readable style and a lovely take on how to write (I should say “design”) effective presentations. I particularly liked this Sunday’s idea of a visual biography – think I’ll s…

  2. tonygoodson says:

    PowerPoint Biography

    He’s done it again, this Cliff Atkinson and his Beyond Bullets weblog on PowerPoint. This time it’s Your Visual Biography. Look what I’ve come up with in response! Ok, so I’ve got 6 images instead of 5. Let me explain.

  3. Beyond Bullets

    Yesterday I came across beyond bullets, Cliff Atkinson’s blog about leveraging the full potential of PowerPoint and learning to use it in new ways to create more compelling content. I really like his philosophy in approaching PowerPoint design. Cliff w…

  4. Visual biography

    Someone blogged recently to recommend Cliff Atkinson’s blog. Cliff has a very readable style and a lovely take on how to write (I should say “design”) effective presentations. I particularly liked this Sunday’s idea of a visual biography – think I’ll s…

  5. Visual biography

    Someone blogged recently to recommend Cliff Atkinson’s blog. Cliff has a very readable style and a lovely take on how to write (I should say “design”) effective presentations. I particularly liked this Sunday’s idea of a visual biography – think I’ll s…

  6. david says:

    Good site you’ve got here — PP is both the blessing & curse of my career! Working as an Exec officer, a good portion of my day was frequently spent creating PP presentations for CCs, VIPs, etc.

    And BTW – my kid sister is a PA officer — currently stationed at Barksdale.

    Good stuff!

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