What is a Visual Aid?
A visual aid is an item of illustrative matter, such as a film, slide, or model, designed to supplement written or spoken information so that it can be understood more easily (Oxford Dictionary). While an audible voice engages the audience, a visual display holds their attention long enough for them to fully receive your message.
Why you should incorporate visual aids into your presentations
1. It saves time. An image or a video will explain a point faster than a thousand words.
2. It enhances audience attention: Most people are audio-visual learners. They concentrate more when they see and hear at the same time. using visual aids reduces the chances of having their minds wander off while you speak.
3. It fosters quick understanding: Our brains -process images faster than text. Avoid using all text on your presentation slides. Use mostly images.
4. It aids retention: People may easily forget what they heard, but will remember what they see. At best, they hardly forget what they saw and heard simultaneously. Use this to your advantage.
5. It creates a lasting impression: I believe that most people speak to influence or make an impart on the lives of their hearers. Using visual aids helps you create the lasting impression required for you to influence or impart your audience.
Types of Visual Aids
Whiteboards are great for providing further explanations, such as, showing the order of a process, creating diagrams or explaining complex words or phrases. They're often used to display headings and write down audience suggestions. Whiteboards are also ideal for displaying important information for the entire duration of the presentation, such as, key definitions, because the audience can just glance at the whiteboard for a reminder.1
- Ensure that enough time has passed for the audience to take notes before rubbing something off of the whiteboard.
- Write concisely to avoid facing away from the audience for too long.
- Handwriting must be large and legible.
- Practice beforehand as you may feel nervous about writing in front of an audience at the time.
Handouts are papers that contain key information from your presentation or they may provide further information. They prevent you from overwhelming the audience as there will be less information on the slides and therefore less information they need to write down.
You must consider when you want to give the audience the handouts:
- If given at the beginning and middle of your presentation the audience may be reading rather than listening to you or they might not pay attention to what you're saying as they already have the information.
- If given at the end of your presentation the audience may be trying to take lots of notes which may reduce the amount of information they are actually understanding.
To manage this, provide the audience with partially completed handouts so they will have to listen to what you're saying to be able to fill in the gaps. Providing the audience with graphs and charts beforehand is also beneficial because the audience will find them easier to read than, for example, from a slide.
Flip charts offer a low cost and low tech solution to record and convey information as you speak. They're more beneficial for smaller audiences and they are favoured for brainstorming sessions as you can gather ideas easily. Flip charts are also widely used for summarising information and, like with a whiteboard, you can use them to show permanent background information.
- Before your presentation, place the flip chart in a location that you can easily access.
- Prepare any sheets you can in advance, even if you can only write down the headings.
- Flip charts can be moved so you can avoid facing away from the audience - stand next to it and continue to face the audience.
- Have only one main idea per sheet.
- Write legibly, largely and in block capitals so it's more visible.
- Check with the audience that they can read the text - do not use a flipchart if there is a large audience.
- Only write in black and blue ink. Red ink is good for circling or underlining.
- Using a pencil write notes to yourself beforehand so you remember what to include - the audience will not see this writing. Also drawing lines in pencil beforehand can keep your handwriting straight.
- Flip back through the sheets to consolidate points.
- Practice writing on the flip chart advance as you may feel nervous at the time of presenting.
Using videos are a great wait to engage the audience and increase their interest. Use video to bring motion, images and audio into your presentation.
- Ensure that any videos used are relevant to the presentation's content.
- Only show as much of the video as necessary.
- Never show a really long clip.
- Videos can be difficult to fit into the structure of a presentation so ensure that you tell that audience why you're showing them a clip and tell them what to look for.
- Inform the audience how long the video will last.
Poster boards can be created using a variety of visual devices, such as graphs and images. They're generally quite portable and you can make them as elaborate as you want. However, they can be expensive to produce if the poster is quite complex.
- One poster per message or theme
- Use colour
- Use block capitals
- Avoid using posters when presenting to large audiences as they will not be able to see the content
Objects can be useful tools for making an impact or even for making a dull topic more interesting. Sometimes they'll be needed for technical and practical reasons, such as, showing a model or conducting an experiment.
- If you are presenting to a small audience consider passing the object around but provide enough time so they won't have to divide their attention between the object and what you're saying.
- If the audience is large ensure that you move the object around so everyone sees it.
- The audience will be more distracted from what you're saying when they're looking at the object so keep it hidden until the right time and provide the background information before revealing it.
- Explain why you're using the object.
- If you are conducting an experiment or demonstration, move slowly with exaggerated movements so the audience can follow. Also explain precisely what's going on.
Slide ware is a generic term for the software used create and display slide shows such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple iWorks Keynote, canva, Google Drive Presentation, Zoho Show and others. Composed of individual slides, collectively known as the slide deck, slideware is a de facto standard for presentation visual aids despite criticisms and complaints about the format.2
1. Have a clear and simple background.
2. Avoid using too many different types of fonts or font sizes.
3. Only use animations for a purpose, such as, to reveal the stages of a process, otherwise this can be distracting and look amateurish.
4. Use a large font size - a minimum of 24pt.
5. Use bullet points to summarize key points.
6. Consider providing handouts of diagrams because the audience will find the diagrams easier to read.
7. Avoid putting too much text on a slide.
8. Avoid using red or green text as it's difficult to read.
9. There should only be one key point for each slide.
10. Always have a back-up plan in case there is a technical issue and you cannot show the visuals on the day, for example, bring handouts or a poster.
Resource 1: How to create a presentation Handout
Resource 2: 10 Whiteboard animation apps
Resource 3: 20 best Video Making/Editing apps
1. Virtual Speech "Using visual aids during a presentation or training session"
https://virtualspeech.com/blog/visual-aids-presentation (Accessed September 4, 2010)
2. Principles of Public Speaking https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-publicspeakingprinciples/chapter/chapter-13-types-of-visual-aids/ (Accessed September 4, 2010)