Visual aids

Visual aids

How many times has a presentation been ruined for you by a Power Point presentation that is too small to read, too busy to read or too full of distractions for you to focus on the speaker? How many times has someone held up a picture that is flashed around too quickly? How many times has the aid been a hindrance not an asset?

Firstly, what is a visual aid? It is anything that you use to make a point clearer. It can be a picture, a book, a drawing on a white board, a demonstration, or Power Point.

Here are some tips to make visual aids work for you rather than distract or mesmerize your audience. Your speech is about you talking; the aid is just that: an aid not a substitute for you.

1 Keep visual aids, including Power Point to a minimum. Ideally about one every three minutes is good. They should be simple, clear and colourful and RELEVANT to the point you are making. The best slides are charts and pictures that make the words easier to understand. Remember, some of the greatest speeches in the world were delivered without visual aids!

2 Visuals need to be seen by everyone. This means that they need to be large enough and you must not block anyone yourself. Be careful about handing things around while you talk. It can be done, but if you are showing photos or a magazine, participants will become distracted and they may not listen to you! 

 3 You should only talk about a point while the visual aid is up. Once you have used the visual aid, put it down or get it off the screen. This is best done by using a blank slide, if you are using Power Point. You can press the B button on the lap top or you can build blank slides into the computer show.

 4 If you want to hold up a picture or some object, it may be better to use a volunteer or assistant rather than hold and talk at the same time. When you hold the picture or prop, you cannot make gestures. Also, once you have shown it, again, put it down and go on talking. When you do show a picture, move it very slowly around the room. If you are too quick, some of the audience will not see it and become distracted even annoyed!

 5 Don’t turn your back to talk about a visual aid. It may be on a white board, or screen, but you don’t need to look at it! The audience does. Your job is to keep looking at them. That way you can judge how long they need to see it and what their reaction is.

 6 Finally, remember, you are the focus. Some people hide behind visual aids or use far too many. They are an aid, not the talk. Accept that it is you and you message that are important so work on your own presentation skills!

 7 Don’t forget to make sure the equipment for the aid is up and working. It’s no use turning up with a Power Point presentation if there is no data screen or no overhead projector with a working light.

 What ever aids you use, there is no substitute for a clearly spoken, well structured, confidently delivered talk. Never think you can give a great oral by filling it with visuals. Remember, Martin Luther King used no visuals, no Power Point and no gimmicks when he delivered “I have a Dream”. He just used the passion and belief and many powerful metaphors, delivered with voice variety and courage. to get some help with your confidence and skills.

Judith Field

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