Thursday, July 2, 2015

Using cartoons in presentations: How to do it right

Too many speakers rely too much on cartoons in presentations--and often, the cartoon is funny but irrelevant to the topic. And I suspect that most speakers ignore cartoonists' intellectual property rights, reproducing cartoons without credit or payment. But there are better ways to incorporate cartoons in your presentations. Here's how to do it right:
  1. Pay for them: Do the right thing, eloquent women: You may be pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the prices are for licensing cartoons for presentation purposes. Try The New Yorker Cartoon Bank, where licensing a cartoon for a presentation costs just $9.95 and the database is 120,000 cartoons strong (but keep in mind that most of them feature white men). Or do a "cartoon" search in stock photo services like Shutterstock (yes, they have more than photos). I like to hunt down novel or targeted cartoonists like Tom Fishburne of Marketoonist, who charges for presentation or website use but lets blogs share his cartoons at no charge, or John Atkinson's wry Wrong Hands cartoons (email him for licensing details).
  2. Draw them yourself: I know two presenters who incorporate cartoons in their presentations, and they often teach others to do the same. Both are in England: Martin Shovel is a speaker coach and cartoonist who offers Cartooning for Communicators workshops--one's coming up this month--and Steve Bee cartoons about pensions online and during his talks. I've worked with both of them at the UK Speechwriters Guild conferences. Drawing your own cartoons during a presentation is engaging, and avoids all the copyright issues.
  3. Display credit: Most cartoonists incorporate this in their cartoons, but it's good form to caption them with the website and/or artist name.
  4. Use them sparingly: If you're not drawing them yourself during a talk, I prefer no more than one cartoon in a presentation. If you choose to use more, use them sparingly--a sprinkling, rather than a parade, of cartoons will keep them from drowning each other out.
  5. Look for cartoons with few words: A truly visual joke with few words will engage your audience rather than make them feel they're reading another slide. Good visual jokes in cartoons make people look and think, as well as laugh.
  6. Don't start with the cartoon: For decades, speakers have been putting cartoons at the start of a presentation to warm up the audience and get some early laughs. But it's a trite approach and one that fritters away the high attention you have at the start. Instead, save your cartoon as a grace note later in the presentation, and jump into a compelling, composed start without art.
  7. Think through that humor: Ask yourself whether the humor in your cartoon is appropriate to your audience--all of your audience. Think about who will get the humor, and who may be confused. When you're presenting a cartoon, say, in English, will everyone in your international audience understand? Will all age groups find it funny? Don't wait till the morning of your presentation to vet those cartoons.
(Tom Fishburne cartoon from Marketoonist)

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