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When visuals aid in the presentation.

There is no doubt about it, visuals enhance presentations. They emphasize information delivered verbally and help your audience understand the message easily and quickly. The environment of sight, as well as sound, gratifies two of the senses and makes your message twice as effective. Most of use are much better able to understand a place, or a concept, through seeing a picture or a demonstration than simply hearing a description.



These principles apply to all types of visual aids, whether they be slides, transparencies, posters, models, machines, flip charts, or any other device which provide visual reinforcement of a spoken word.

First, the visual should absolutely e+nhance the presentation. Ask yourself, "Could I communicate this idea just as effectively without the use of a visual?" IF the answer is, "Yes", then abandon the visual. Under such circumstances, the visual aid will seem "forced" to the audience and the impact will be lessened. Never use a visual with neutral value; always use visuals that impact the points you are making.

The visual should be easy on the eyes. If it is too small and people cannot see it easily, they tend to be distracted by their inability to discern the visual, and lose track of what you are saying. If you are using a typical two feet by three feet piece of posterboard or a flip chart, for example, make sure the letters are at least two inches high for easy readability. With transparencies, the ideal size for lettering is 36 point. Another good idea in utilizing visual aids is to include some color. Research shows that people respond much better to colour than just black and white. Also, the visual should not be too complicated. A simple rule to follow is one idea per visual. If you use a complicated drawing or include several different concepts, the visual reinforcement will be confused and make the audience feel ill at ease.

Introduce the visual, rather than simply throwing it at your audience. Explain what the visual will do before you unveil it. In your introduction, make the visual tantalizing to the audience: "What I have to show you now will demonstrate how the plan works" is a statement that builds interest. The weather person often does this ("If you look at this next map you will see a storm system moving in from the northeast...") in anticipating the weather for the next day.


In advance of the actual presentation, check to make sure that the visual is properly placed. It should be in a place where everyone in the audience has equal access to it - a visual placed more to one side of the room than the other makes half of your audience feel left out. Another important key is that the positioning, and the visual itself, should not distract. If it is an object or a model, cover it o conceal it until your are ready to address it to avoid curiosity distractions that will occur.

When finished with the visual put it away or turn off the machine so that the audience will not continue looking at it as you move on to the next point. And do not allow the visual to distract you either. Maintain eye contact with the audience even as you use the visual aid. Do no look directly at the visual if it means turning your back, or turning away, from the audience as you speak. Do not allow the visual to keep you from talking as your develop it; avoid statements like, "This slide (or transparency or poster) is pretty much self-explanatory" followed by a period of silence for audience assimilation. If the point is as visually evident as you indicate people will wonder why you, as the presenter, are necessary, and if it is not so easy to understand, they will become embarrassed by their lack of understanding.


The visual should reinforce the presentation. Is should not take the place of the speech. Some speakers allow their visuals to be their presentations. This can result in the speaker losing control of the audience; in addition, if the visuals fail to communicate the message, so does the speaker!

You also need to be comfortable with your visuals. Practice using them as you prepare the presentation. Never simply assume visual aids will work, and then have to deal with their innefectualness when you are before a live audience. Visuals can complicate matters, and if you have not practiced your presentation using the visuals, it will show by your hesitancy in working with them in the real presentation. Visuals should not call attention to themselves.

An important point to remember: visuals are termed "aids" and not "replacements". Be confident enough of the oral presentation itself that, if necessary, your presentation can go off smoothly even without visuals. Unforeseen circumstances, like lost of malfunctioning equipment or even natural disasters, can put your visuals out of commission and leave you on your own. I use an overhead projector for many of the seminars I conduct, but recently in New Jersey, a power outage necessitated foregoing my transparencies and speaking to a group of 400 for two hours with no help from modern electric technology. Of course the speech would have been much enhanced by the transparencies, but fortunately I was so familiar with my content that I never even revealed to the audience that I had meant to use transparencies. Make sure that you can survive without visuals.

If you follow these guidelines in your choice, and use, of visual aids, they will aid and augment your presentation's effectiveness.

Slide Tips

* When preparing slides for presentations, get a black and white hard copy of each slide. Reduce each hard copy to a size that allows you to fit three images vertically on an 8-1/ 2" x 11" page.

Place them on the one side of the page and type the accompanying points on the other side of the page next to each image. Or use 3" x 5" cards - one slide to a card.

Source: Words Worth, Sandra Dollar & Associates

* If you're scheduled to make a slide presentation after another speaker has shown slides, keep your slides with you until you're ready to use them.

Why: When back-to-back speakers show slides, the first speaker may mistakenly walk off with your slides - especially if they're placed near the projector.

Make Better


When projecting overhead transparencies, consider these tips to improve their impact and your effectiveness:

* Key your colors according to the presentation's major headings, keeping them consistent with your message. Determine whether it would be appropriate to display good news in green, neutral news in blue, and negative news in red. Caution: Don't use red if you want to diminish the impact of the bad news.

* When your presentation is designed to build audience acceptance with each subsequent point, consider advancing the colors according to the "temperature" of color, beginning with the cool colors and leading up to the warmer ones. Example: blue-green-yellow-orange-red.

* Emphasize "good-news" copy by positioning it high on the screen.

* Display your most current point in a new, vivid color.

* When you wish to diminish a message or negative news, display the information without using color.

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University. He conducts over 100 programs a year on communication topics for business, industry, and associations. He can be reached at (606) 441-6520.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Boyd, Stephen D.
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Jun 22, 1991
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