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Effective visual aids.

[check] This checklist is intended to assist those who wish to use visual aids in a presentation, whether formal or informal, to a group, large or small.


For the purpose of this checklist, visual aids are images, either still or moving, that are used to enhance a presentation. They include films, slides, overhead transparencies, models, product samples, handouts and computer-based images.

Advantages of using visual aids

Visual aids can help the audience to retain a better understanding of information.

Visual aids can be used to:</p> <pre> explain, amplify, simplify or clarify points hold attention, help concentration and aid retention

add interest and variety, and help break up an event into smaller

sections. </pre> <p>If a picture is worth a thousand words, then visual aids can save time as well.

Disadvantages of using visual aids

Visual aids take time to plan, design and prepare.

Action checklist

1. Define the purpose of the presentation

Consider what objectives you want to achieve with the presentation--for example, to give the audience a broad overview of a subject, or a more detailed technical understanding, or perhaps a mixture of both.

2. Draw out the key points

Determine the key points that you want to make in the presentation. Are you trying to put across too much information in one go? Does each key point need to be reinforced with one or more aids? How many secondary points would also benefit from the use of visual aids? Too many secondary points may distract from key features.

3. Analyse the audience

You should obtain a good idea of the likely audience. Consider its level of knowledge--will it be made up mainly of experienced senior executives, professionals, technicians, students, the general public, company staff, or a mixture? This level of knowledge will affect the level of detail and difficulty of the subject that you wish to transfer, and it will also help you to decide on the most suitable visual aids. Some graphs, for example, radar diagrams, need prior knowledge of their structure and layout to be understood and so may not be suitable for a lay person.

4. Consider content and format

What is the most suitable format to gain maximum understanding and clarity of the key points? Text may be suitable for many occasions, either as complete paragraphs, short individual sentences or 'bullet points'. Graphical displays can be computer generated and include drawings, diagrams, graphs or charts (bar, pie, vertical, horizontal), or photographs. Some topics may be better explained using films or videos; others, for example, marketing presentations, may require models or samples to be effective. Make certain that all visual aids are fully legible from the back of the room you will be using (how often have you heard 'You won't be able to read all the figures, but I'll put this table up all the same'?)

Remember, whatever the presentation, that:

* visual aids can be used in combination (and can be even more effective used this way)

* colour should be used sparingly for maximum impact (black on white is clearest for text)

* excessive detail in each image will cause confusion

* it may be necessary to break complex issues into several images, but it should be shown how they 'fit' together.

5. Think about the equipment to be used

First, determine what equipment will be needed. Remember that, if a booking system is in operation in your organisation, you may not have access to a particular piece of equipment on the day of the presentation. Check on availability well in advance.

There is a wide range of equipment that can be used, both traditional and high-tech, including:

* Whiteboards and flipcharts

These are generally blank at the beginning of the session and are written on as the presentation is made. If they are to be prepared beforehand, make sure they can be covered (more difficult with a whiteboard than a flipchart) when not being referred to, so that they don't distract the audience. Electronic whiteboards are now available which allow a printed copy to be made for a handout, but these are expensive.

* Overhead transparencies (OHTs) These need an overhead projector (OHP) to produce a large image onto a wall or screen. They can be hand-prepared during the session or pre-printed, and have the advantage of being reasonably cheap. Several transparencies can be overlaid to build up an image. Projector fans can be noisy so OHPs should be switched off when not in use.

* Slide or filmstrip projectors These are normally used when high quality images are involved. Slides are fiddly to load (although some machines allow a number of slides to be inserted in advance of the session) and need a darkened room for the image to be seen properly.

* Films and videos Film is less popular now than video, but can still be an excellent medium for presentations. Videos can be viewed on normal-sized television sets or, using appropriate projection systems, on larger screens. Both videos and films, as well as being expensive, can get out-of-date, so their use should be carefully planned. Film projectors can be noisy.

* Other electronic projection equipment A wide range of equipment that allows the enlarged display of information held in electronic format is available and is worth investigating. Remember to make sure that you know how to operate the equipment before you make a presentation. You may be required to enlarge, reduce or focus images. Try the equipment out in advance, or ensure that a trained person is available to help.

6. Prepare or hire the visual aids

Are any prepared aids already available in-house? Could you use these? If not, consider who is to produce or hire them--should it be yourself, your own department, the reprographics department, or an outside firm, for example? Perfectly acceptable images can be produced using even basic word processing or graphics editing software.

Is there a house style to follow? Even if not, ensure that there is a uniform layout for all the aids.

Photographs, videos and slides can all be purchased or hired from specialist agencies.

Allow sufficient time for production, including any corrections, additions, alterations, purchase or hiring arrangements.

Visual aids should be cost-effective, so take into account the costs in preparing the material, including the possible hire, leasing or purchase of equipment, such as projectors. If leasing or purchasing, consider maintenance, depreciation, replacement and insurance costs, including the cost of any service agreements. Hire costs, even for just one day, can be considerable.

7. Prepare the venue The number of persons expected and the size of the room in relation to the maximum size of the image or other aids are factors that should be examined when selecting a venue. The layout of the seats--theatre style, semi-circle, or U-shaped--is important. What is the view like from the furthest seat? Try to ensure that neither you nor the equipment obscure anybody's view.

Make sure it is possible to darken the room if necessary in order for images to be clearly seen. Where sound is needed, make sure the speakers deliver good quality sound.

8. Plan the use of the visual aids and rehearse the presentation

Carefully plan when to introduce the visual aids during the presentation. Two presentations are rarely ever the same, so you should identify the method of using the visual aid which suits your particular style. Is it better to introduce a topic and talk about it briefly before showing any visual aid, rather than displaying something 'cold' and then talking about it? Films can be shown and handouts made available at the beginning to act as a focus for the remainder of the presentation or at the end as a summary. Consider the pros and cons of each. Models or samples should be kept hidden from view until required. After each aid has served its purpose, remove it from view so that it does not distract the audience's attention, but remember to leave enough time for people to take notes if necessary. Provide handouts summarising the essential information presented.

Carry out a full rehearsal at least once, using all the aids, to ensure a smooth flow. Ask a friend or colleague for critical feedback--for example on how well each aid served its purpose. Use aids as your notes only if you are confident that you can do so. Remember not to turn your back on the audience when referring to an aid.

9. Make a final check

Ensure that all equipment has arrived and is in working order about an hour before the presentation. Try out slides or OHTs and make sure they are in the order in which they will be displayed. Any delay during delivery due to problems of this nature may detract from the overall presentation. Ensure pens and other instruments are in good working order.

10. Have an alternative plan

If, in spite of all your careful planning, equipment breaks down, an alternative plan will enable you to carry on with the presentation. Projector bulb failure is a common cause of breakdown. Have spares ready.

Dos and don'ts for the effective use of visual aids

Do</p> <pre> Make sure each visual aid or combination of aids is the best for the job. Try to find out about your audience. Make sure you are familiar with any equipment to be used. </pre> <p>Don't</p>

<pre> Display the visual aid for too long, as it will become a

distraction. Put too much detail into each aid. Forget to rehearse the complete presentation at least once. </pre> <p>Useful reading


Lend me your ears: all you need to know about making speeches and presentations, Max Atkinson London: Vermilion, 2004

Presenting numbers, tables and charts, Sally Bigwood & Melissa Spore Oxford: OUP, 2004

The ultimate business presentations book: make a great impression every time Martin Yate & Peter Sander London: Kogan Page, 2003

Presentation in a week, 3rd ed, Malcolm Peel and Jon Lamb London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002

Training techniques tools and tips, Donna Willis Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2002

Presentation in a week,3rd ed, Malcolm Peel and Jon Lamb London:Hodder and Stoughton, 2002

Effective presentation: powerful ways to make your presentations more effective Antony Jay and Ros Jay London: Prentice Hall, 2000

Thought starters
 What are the best (worst) visual aids that you have seen used in
 presentation? Why were they good (bad)?
 Which visual aid helps you understand or learn more easily?
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Title Annotation:presentation methods
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Marketing Strategy
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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