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Visual Aids


Visual aids are images or objects that reinforce and create better comprehension of a concept or idea.


Curate your Visual Aids before your presentation in Pops Classroom

Demonstrations show the audience how something is done.

Objects are physical representations of ideas/concepts.

Posters are large paper displays that can be artwork or written bullet points.

Flip charts are large paper pads that are great for handwriting bullet points.

Videos are motion clips or a series of images set in time with or without audio accompaniment. 

Images are pictures, hand-drawn or computer-generated graphics that non-moving.

Handouts can be a single page or a grouping of pages of flyers or pamphlets that contain information related to a presentation.

White/Chalkboards are boards that can be written or drawn on. 

Presenter Appearance is the physical representation of how the speaker looks; usually their clothing, hat, jewelry, etc.


Related Reading:

Nonverbal Delivery

Presentation Slides are a slideshow of multiple images, videos, graphics, charts, etc. prepared with software 

          Visual Aids are images or objects that reinforce and create better comprehension of a concept or idea. Regardless of the type you choose, visual aids need a K.I.S.S. (or Keep It Simple, Silly) principle approach. By keeping your visual aids simple, they make your presentation easier to remember, make the complex understandable, add support, sustain credibility, and help you organize your thoughts. Appropriate visual aids provide support to the topic, to the occasion, to you, and to the audience. Never use a visual aid that isn’t relevant to the topic you are speaking about.

          Visual aids can take several forms such as:

  • Demonstrations: When you show your audience how something is done. Demonstrations can be most effective when your speech goal is to teach your audience something, like CPR or to bake a cake.

  • Objects: Physical representations of the ideas and concepts you are speaking about. An actual thing to enhance your message or meaning. An example of an object would be a dog leash for a speech about dog sitting. A model of an antique car you are talking about. A person doing a series of ballet moves for your audience.

  • Posters: May be considered for smaller audiences. Be sure to make your posters large enough to be seen by the entire audience. They should be professional in their look and appearance. They should enhance your message and draw your audience into the presentation. Using a heavy foam board may be the preferred method as they are sturdier. Poster design should follow the guidelines of the presentation slides.

  • Flip charts: Excellent for presentations with smaller audiences where you might need to tailor your messages and visual aids to the audience. As you write on them make sure your print is legible and clear for the audience. If at all possible, you should prepare your flip charts in advance to have them look as professional as possible. Leave a blank piece of paper between each page you use so you can remove any text your audience could continue to read as you present. If not, it may take the focus off you and your message.

  • Videos: May help to show the audience exactly what you are talking about in your speech. They may also add a visual representation to your message and help clarify difficult concepts visually. They need to be appropriate to the topic and not overly long. Videos included in a speech should be limited to less than one-fifth your presentation time. Remember: a video is only a piece of supporting material—not your speech. Be sure to leave yourself ample time to discuss the meaning and relevance of the video. Videos should be properly cued so they begin without advertisement (when possible) and only show the portion relevant to the message. When using videos, test them ahead of time to ensure technical hurdles don’t occur during your speech. Be prepared for when not if as far as technology glitches go.

  • Images: These are compelling visual aids as well. When using an image be sure to include a citation, either verbal or caption, to the photographer/artist who created the image. Social media images can be used as visual aids; however, it is important to gain permission from the user who originally posted the image’s permission before use. Again, don’t clutter your presentations with irrelevant images just for pretty picture’s sake. They must support and enhance your presentation or don’t use them.

  • Handouts: Sometimes giving your audience something can make an impact. Examples of handouts may be flyers or pamphlets relating to the concept you are speaking about. For example, if you are doing a presentation about advertisement techniques of coffee shops, giving your audience an example of their sales flyers may be effective. However, it is recommended you pass around the handouts after your speech as they could become a distraction to your audience.

  • White/Chalkboard: Writing or drawing on a white/chalkboard can be a presentation aid; however, these are not preferred as they could be visually messy. Also, make sure you never turn your back to an audience when using a blackboard. You must practice using them effectively. For example, write then turn to your audience when speaking then turn and write then face your audience to talk again. This process requires practice. You never want to talk to the board, you must talk with your audience.

  • Presenter appearance: These are the subliminal messages you might convey through your use of clothing or yourself. For example, if you are doing a presentation about being a firefighter, it may be impactful to wear firefighting gear. You need to be aware of the slightest message that may be sent in your overall appearance. It should never take away from your message or meaning.

  • Presentation Slides: This is some of the most common (and possibly overused) visual aids in speaking. Presentation slides are made via the computer, tablet, or phone. Common slideshow software includes Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, Prezi, etc. Presentation slides are a visual medium, not a written one. As you create your slides, you might create them in “slide sorter” not the standard linear manner. They provide a “storyboard” of your presentation. Your slides are a visual representation, not a static or linear one. There are several good books on how to create and effectively use this type of support in your speech, each of them provides excellent guidelines for creating effective presentation slides

          Although the following guidelines are geared predominantly for presentation slides, all visual aids should follow these simple guidelines when these when applicable.

  • Design

    • Follow the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep it simple, not complex.

    • Keep the font (size and type) consistent throughout your visual aids

    • Keep the background design (or template) consistent between slides.

    • Use a single color background.

    • Use high contrast colors.

    • If presenting in a dark room, use a darker background with light text.

    • If presenting in a light room, use a light background with dark text.

    • Use graphics cautiously.

      • Be consistent with your style, 2D or 3D.

      • Choose images wisely.

      • Graphics can be interpreted differently by different people.

      • Use one graphic per slide.

    • Have a visual balance of slide elements.

    • Have a purpose for everything on your slide.

    • It is very important to practice with your slides. Rehearsal makes the flow smoother and your comfort level using them better.

  • Pyrotechnics

    • Use caution when adding effects to slides.

    • “Building,” “flying,” “zoom,” “dimming,” “dissolving,” etc., may be confusing.

    • Be careful of flying things in, checkerboarding text, or having too much animation with your slides.

    • If they are happening frequently, you may lose your audience’s attention.

    • If using an effect, stick with a simple fade and use it consistently.

  • Text

    • Simple not complex is visually efficient.

    • Font looks smaller on a monitor than it will in your actual presentation.

      • 36 to 44 for titles

      • 32 for main points

      • 24 for subpoints

      • Never use font size smaller than 12 on slides

      • Better to think bigger than too small

    • Follow the 6x6 or 8x8 Rule

      • 6 to 8 words per line

      • 6 to 8 lines of text per slide

      • This keeps the message focused on you and your information. Not your slides.

      • Audiences tend to not want “bell and whistles,” they want the information plain and simple.

    • Use an easy-to-read font.

    • Avoid ALL CAPS.

    • For presentation slides use a san serif font (the ones without the curly cues) like Arial, Lucida, Veranda, etc.

    • For printed work use a serif font (with curly cues) like Times New Roman, Bookman, Garamond, etc.

  • Remember: there will always be a split-second time lapse from when your audience sees your visual to the actual processing of the information contained on the visual to the understanding and comprehension of your message.

          When presenting and using visual aids you should:

  • Stand in the center of the room with your slides off to the side (if possible). You are the focus.

  • Talk to your audience, not the visual aids.

  • Avoid turning your back to the audience.

  • Move out from behind the lectern or podium.

  • Pass out copies of your visual aids after the presentation (not during)—if applicable.

  • Control timing and slide advancement.

  • Depending on your speech, approximately 1 to 3 minutes per slide for presentation slides.

  • Only unveil your visual aid when it is appropriate to the speech.

  • Remove your visual aid when it is no longer relevant.

  • Explain your visual aid’s relevance clearly and concisely.

          Visual aids are just that: aids. You and your message are the focus of the presentation. Visual aids will change the dynamic of your presentation, and you must practice with them.

Review Questions

1) Why should you only use appropriate visual aids when giving a presentation?

2) At point should you pass out handouts in a presentation? Why is that?

3) Should you use effects on presentation slides? What about all capital letters? 

4) Approximately how long should you stay on each slide during a presentation? Is it appropriate to leave an older slide on the screen after you have finished referencing that slide?

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