Chapter 3: Developing Compelling Presentations
Using Visual Aids
Visual aids can add interest and clarity to your speech or presentation. However, they can weaken your performance too.
It's important to remember that visual aids should only be used to supplement your words not replace or overshadow them.
In public speaking, your mission shouldn't be to wow your audience with fancy graphics but to choose words that effectively communicate your message.
If you absolutely need graphics to make your speech interesting then there is probably a problem with the content.
Here are some suggestions on how you can use illustrations to effectively illustrate or enhance your content:
- Ensure your Visual Aids are visible: As you develop your aids, assess them from the audience's perspective. Ask yourself, if everyone will be able to see the visual aid?
If they can't, you should probably leave it out of your presentation. The last thing you needs is disgruntled audience members who have tuned out your presentation because they can't see it.
- Make your Visual Aid understandable: Your audience needs to be able to get the main idea of your visual aid at first glance.
Any slide or illustration that needs extensive explanation will only detract from your speech and cause you to lose your train of thought. For charts and graphs, use them to illustrate only one point.
For slides with text, have a limit of five to seven bullet points.
- Use professional Visual Aids: In this case, professional doesn't mean fancy. But you should ensure the aids you use are error-free and that the words you used are correctly spelled.
In most cases, stock photos have a more professional feel than clipart.
Also, you might want to stay away from the art used in Microsoft word or the other popularly used sites because these overused illustrations may be less impactful.
- Use meaningful and relevant Visual Aids: An aid should illustrate a point, not just echo what you're already saying in words. It should add something.
In fact, your words and visual aids should complement each other.
- Explain Your Visual Aid: Make sure you refer to every visual aid you use in your presentation. Don't just assume they'll get it, bring the point home.
- Refrain from using distracting Visual Aids: Just like your visual aids shouldn't detract from your words, they shouldn't overshadow you either.
As an example, don't pass around handouts while you're talking because your audience will be reading them instead of listening to you.
- Use Visual Aids that are relevant: Use the information you obtained about your audience to determine what visual aids would be relevant to them.
For instance, using an illustration featuring a popular young rock band to drive home a point may be a big hit with high schoolers but would provide no payoff for senior citizens.
- Ensure your Visual Aids are audience appropriate: Again, focus on the listeners and their expectations.
The last thing you want to do is offend them by using illustrations that are offensive or inappropriate. So put yourselves in their shoes and come up with illustrations that will facilitate a connection.
- Talk to the audience not the illustration: Many speakers are so reliant on their visual aids that they direct their presentations to the screen. Not good.
The audience didn't come to get the information from the visual aid—they came to hear you.
- Use Visual Aids with a purpose: No matter how interesting, attractive, or colorful your visual aids are, they will lose their impact if you use too many of them.
Don't use these elements as a show and tell exercise, save them to reinforce or illustrate a particular point.