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Clichés: Handshake Pictures

Learn why using pictures of handshakes is a cliché, and how you can find alternatives.


One of the most clichéd pictures you will find within presentation slides, web sites, and even billboard banners is that of the handshake! There are all sorts of handshake pictures, from those shaking hands between opposite genders to those of handshakes between people of different races and ages. Figure 1, below shows search results for the keyword “handshake”, on Google Images.

Handshakes are aplenty, but clichéd
Figure 1: Handshakes are aplenty, but clichéd

And yet they all seem clichéd! Why is that so? To understand the answer to this question, we have to first understand what a handshake symbolizes.

A handshake represents several concepts:

  • Reaching out to welcome someone
  • Greeting when you meet someone
  • Formalizing an agreement of some sort
  • Showing happiness, or even just courtesy by acknowledging someone
  • Congratulating somebody
  • Expressing gratitude to another person
  • Providing a sign of good sportsmanship, even to someone you may have lost to
  • Parting after a meeting

Now let us think about alternatives for the cliché that a handshake graphic represents – as discussed in our Overcoming Clichés in Pictures article, we will explore four directions:

Think Creative:

Why did you actually decide upon a handshake graphic in the first place? Think about the reason, and that thought process will make you more creative. What did that handshake represent to you? Was it a compliment, a greeting, an agreement, a show of happiness or gratitude, a way to show sportsmanship, or was it a goodbye or a parting?

Think Creative

There’s no one graphic concept with which you can replace the handshake – but depending upon what the handshake represented to you in the first place, you can think about alternatives:

  • If the handshake meant a goodbye or parting, then a single waving hand may work.
  • If it meant sportsmanship, you can probably use a thumbs up, high five, or even a victory gesture.
  • If a handshake meant the formalization of some agreement, then you could use a visual of a legal agreement, a pen signing on a document, etc.

In each of these cases, you can combine two or more visuals to create something new. Maybe a legal agreement, a pen, and a happy smile – all in the same graphic? The important part here is for you to be creative and think about alternate ways to represent the same emotions that a handshake no longer represents, since it is such a cliché!

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Profound:

What is it that’s meaningful or profound about the handshake graphic? Or why must you still have the handshake graphic even though it might seem clichéd?

Think Profound

You will have to think deeper now:

  • Dig within your brains and try to come to a realization about how the handshake you imagine is different than any other handshake?
  • What’s unique? What’s deeper?
  • Does this handshake represent financial or emotional gain?
  • Will the picture look less clichéd if used in grayscale?
  • Would a larger, exposed picture that shows human emotions work better, since the actual handshake then will only cover less than a tenth of the picture area?
  • What about changing the angle of the handshake picture to show the gesture from above or below, rather than the ubiquitous front-angled handshake?
  • Or do you want to forego the usual handshake and show two fists holding each other?

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Logical:

It really does not matter if a handshake graphic does not work for you! Were there any figures or facts that you wanted to establish? Will those be well represented with an infographic, such as table, chart, diagram, or even a word cloud? Did you have a road map or a flow chart, or could you create one? Go ahead and use something that’s not a typical camera picture – and you could also probably doodle something and draw it?

Think Logical

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Again:

This is the end of the thinking process about the “handshake”, and also the beginning of a new thinking process. Handshakes won’t work for you – start thinking all over again until you find something better.

Think Again

Pictures in Presentations Pictures in Presentations:
For PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, and Users of all Presentation Software

Is a picture is worth a thousand words? You probably have heard this adage so often that we decided not to repeat this phrase throughout this book!

Now here's some more info: the human brain uses a larger part of its area to store visual information rather than textual content. And that's possibly because a picture describes so much more than text.

Together, we'll explore unconventional stuff about pictures in this book, so that we learn something that is new and useful!

Go and get a copy of our Pictures in Presentations E-Book.

Pictures in Presentations E-book


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