Adding Images and Vision to Your Speeches

How do you show your audience what you want them to see?  How do you add images that support the vision of your speech?

The Nature of Communication

Like dance, like acting, public speaking is a movement of ideas from the artist to the audience.

I believe that public speaking is an art.  It comes down to our ability to create a vision in our audience’s mind that inspires them to do something.  That the ART of rhetoric.

Then again, there’s the old saying that a picture says a thousand words. This might imply that you should include images – pictures – with your speeches to make them more effective. Actually, that’s the whole idea behind presentation software.

I’m not going to argue that having images helps explain complex data.  But do you need images for your speech presentation?

Today on the podcast, we’re talking about adding images to your presentation to help you know when and how to use images and when to choose language that creates the images in your audience’s mind that exceeds any image you might show.


Do you have a vision to change the world?  Do you need to develop the skills to see it happen?  Then Toastmasters is for you.  We teach public speaking and leadership skills to help you change the world.  This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.


There’s a path in Toastmasters called Visionary Communications.  I’m actually working through that path this year.  I decided to change up the focus from creating vision to story telling – I’ll need to report to you about that next week.

Learning how to create vision for your audience is the primary purpose of most public speaking.

That’s why using images is so effective.  When we can’t figure something out, images help us comprehend information.

It’s a great tool – presentation software supports our message when we use it right.  When we use it wrong – that’s the problem.

How do you know when to use images?

This year, we all have been using Zoom or other online software for meetings – Toastmasters, professional, educational.   I start teaching a speech class in September.  Because of the uncertain nature of the pandemic, I’m preparing to record my lectures so that if I have a student who has to quarantine or if the schools are closed, I have the lectures already prepared.  One of the first presentations I need to record is my introduction and to review the syllabus.

Should I use images?  How do I decide?

The question you need to ask yourself is this:  What’s the point?  What do pictures bring to your audience?

We always have to remember that we’ve got an online audience, they are functionally trained to look for something else when what they’re looking at on the screen starts to bore them.  There’s always something else to look at – even if it’s a game of solitaire or an Instagram video.

On the other hand, the most attractive image to  humans is… the human face.  So it behooves us to learn how to use our faces to help create an attractive image on the screen to help keep the audience’s attention.

Somewhere in there, there’s a balance.

In the process of making my lecture decisions, I’ve found myself going both ways:  images and not.  The thing is – I don’t know how to edit videos.  If I’m going to use my face – I’m going to only use my face unless I magically learn how to edit video to add in the images.  If I’m going to use images, I’m going to only use images – I’m a big fan of – an online website that produces good images  and presentations and allows me to present them inside the program.

Therefore, I need to make a decision and stick to it.

My personal introduction won’t take long – maybe two minutes?  I’m not sure I have a lot to say and honestly, when we first meet in a classroom, I’m not interested in making my students comfortable with me… just yet.  My entire first class is about introducing my students to their stage fright symptoms and ratcheting up the stress to make sure the students feel each and every one of those horrible sensations.  That sounds cruel, but I promise, it’s only for a little while.  They’ll all be so relieved when they survive and class is over!  I’ve never had anyone vomit or pass out yet!

Two Choices

I think my intro can be short:  my name, and my purpose in teaching the class.  That’s it.

Now, the syllabus is a different matter altogether.  For a class that has students from the ages 10 to 18, I’ve discovered that most of the students have never seen a syllabus, have no clue how to spell the word or what it is.  I have to review all the components of the class in the syllabus with the students and this presentation isn’t going to be quick.  The syllabus contains links to assignments, instructions regarding turning their home work in, expectations about presentations.  You’re not giving a speech wearing black socks, sandals, gym shorts, and a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball T-shirt in my class.

This document is 6 pages long and while I don’t have to cover every link or assignment from the start, I do need to make sure they know how to read the syllabus.  Since this is going to take roughly 7-10 minutes, I’m pretty sure I’m going to use images to add some humor and to indicate where in the document I am.  This is not where I want to scare them.

What I’m saying is… the primary decision whether or not to use images is based on my audience, not my message.  

I think we sometimes get this wrong.  We think our data is more important.

That’s a mistake.

The image we see with our eyes may be worth a thousand words. The vision we see with our mind’s eye is probably immeasurably more valuable.

Communication has 3 components:  the speaker, the audience, and the message.  When we prioritize one over the others, we get out of balance and that stops communication.  Our data – our images – are tools, not the end in itself!

So how do we create vision in our audience?

If the whole purpose of what we want to do with public speaking is to inspire change – to get our audience to act – we have to create a vision for them where they can see themselves doing something new, something different.

That’s the challenge and the fun of public speaking.

I can use images to help people understand my information.  Vision is entirely different and applies to a different part of the human being.

Facts apply to our brains.  They should appeal to our sense of reason.  But decisions aren’t always made on facts alone.  We have to consider the three great cores of communication:  logos, pathos, and ethos.

When I teach speech, we do an analysis of two famous speeches.  In Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech I Have a Dream, we see the heights of how effective the right words can be.  His speech inspired a nation to seek to change.

Crafting a speech like Dr. King’s may take a lifetime of experience, but we can start with learning how it’s done and practicing at our Toastmasters meetings.

Using Language to Create Images

Using language that inspires people to do better – that’s what Dr. Martin Luther King did.  His years of preaching his faith and public speaking had created his unique voice that called all men to do better in our society.

How do you do that? Study the greats.

First, I think we all need to study the greats.  Toastmasters never expects us to look to the past for examples.  But history is rife with them and we can learn from them.  Great speakers and great speeches didn’t just happen – someone understood the power of knowing the audience and understanding how language affects us.

Of course, I’m going to suggest Dr. King’s speech.  I’ll also suggest speeches by James Baldwin, Winston Churchill, and US Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy and Barak Obama.  I believe there are many great speeches in every culture and nation that I don’t know about.  Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth.  Go look those up and read them.  Listen to them!  Speeches aren’t meant to be read – they’re meant to be heard.

Second, rhetorical devices

Repetition works.  Dr. King’s speech title isn’t I Have a Dream, but no one remembers the original name.  He had used the phrase in previous speeches and was prompted by a guest at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to talk about his dream.  By repeating the phrase, he worked it into his audience’s mind.  Sojourner Truth’s speech Ain’t I a Woman? also uses repetition effectively.

Do we expect the repetitions to be thematic or important words?  Lincoln used repetition with the simple words “we cannot” in his Gettysburgh Address.

Parallel construction by using phrases like,

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

as President John F. Kennedy used in his inaugural speech uses repetition without repeating himself – although, if you read or listen to that speech, Kennedy maximizes repetition of phrases.

Using alliteration in your speech helps your audience engage with you.  This can also reduce your effectiveness.  You don’t want to sound like a tongue twister, nor do you want to trip yourself up.  But used well, your audience often responds well.

The Images of Sounds

Some sounds have come to be associated with certain emotions – the S sound often has a mental link to snakes in many languages, which may conjure some unpleasant emotional responses.

What imagery do you want to inspire?

Alliteration doesn’t come naturally to me.  When I’m writing my speeches, I will often find better word choices and alliterations when I practice or deliver the speech.  It’s disheartening to listen to myself say something on the fly that I could have used to craft a better speech, but I do it frequently.

You will find a great list of all the rhetorical devices found the Mirriam Webster website – the link is in the show notes, as are all the links to the speeches I’ve mentioned – that includes examples of each of these.  Go and get inspired!

Using emotional words and sounds

Finally, I think the last thing that inspires your audience to get your vision is to lay it out with how it will impact the world.  I teach this in debate class as a persuasive technique to win a structured debate.

This creates a vision.  When you can put an image into people’s minds, it’s their vision of what you want them to see.

That’s a pretty interesting result.  But think about it.  When we read a book or hear a podcast, we have our own images in our minds.

When I’m telling a story, I don’t have to say “I’m standing in a grey kitchen beside a gas stove and a white refrigerator.”  Those details don’t matter to my story, so I don’t need to include them – but the audience who listens to me has an image of a kitchen. Their kitchens.

When you want to inspire change, you can depend on your audience to create their own imagery in their own minds – and that’s a much better basis for you.  They have the buy-in to your message when they have the images that come to their minds with your words.  They have emotional links to those images.  You get to build on those, not tear them down and rebuild your exact images where your listener doesn’t have an emotional connection.

Using your audience’s mental images

That’s why the mental images are far more important than any image you might put up on a screen.  If I don’t have an emotional connection with your vision, it stays your vision.  I don’t engage.  I don’t buy into it.

The first inspirational speech I gave in Toastmasters was for the Competent Communicator about hypermiling – driving techniques that reduce fuel consumption back when gas was double the price it is today.  When I was creative and demonstrated the impact with a story and with data, I had several people tell me that my speech changed how they drove.   Did I give them a picture of the car I was talking about driving?  Nope.  I gave them their mental images and they bought into what I talking about – how to reduce their fuel costs.

When I go to enrollment meetings for my classes, I always explain that I have no clue what a quadratic equation does or why it gets 2 answers,  But I talk every day and the single best skill that a successful person needs is the ability to speak to others.  I’ve inspired many families to join my classes because I gave the parents the vision of their children’s success – and the students an image of being able to convince their parents to permit a particular goal – one student used what I taught in class to get a pet lizard.  What kid doesn’t have something they want that their parents don’t?

I never dreamed of assisting in the acquisition of a lizard.  But the image was in my student’s mind.

The image we see with our eyes may be worth a thousand words. The vision we see with our mind’s eye is probably immeasurably more.

Images and vision – what works for your audience and your message?

Whatever your message is – your success depends on how you communicate your vision to your audience.  Toastmasters will teach you – and give you the opportunities to practice those skills.

Wrap it up, Kim

Our music is from

Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.

Our international Toastmasters convention is being held this month – August, 2020 – online!

Our Toastmasters International Convention starts this month. And instead of paying airline prices and hotel fees as well as the convention costs, we can attend the 2020 Virtual Convention for free! You can register now at – the link is in the show notes. You can even see the World Championship of Public Speaking.  Remember, District 10’s competitor, Dr. Kitty Brandal, the finalist from our district will learn next week if she makes it to the final round.  We’re rooting for you, Kitty!

Join us next week when I talk about storytelling – and converting a path to a new focus.