Visual aids can enhance your presentations - they can increase the audience's understanding of your topic, explain points, make an impact and create enthusiasm. It has become more important to make information visual:
"Something is happening. We are becoming a visually mediated society. For many, understanding of the world is being accomplished, not through words, but by reading images" - (Lester, 2006)
In this article, we discuss how to use visual aids for presentations or training sessions.
Visual aids are items of a visual manner, such as graphs, photographs, video clips etc used in addition to spoken information. Visual aids are chosen depending on their purpose, for example, you may want to:
Once you have decided that you want to use a visual aid, you must ensure that the audience is able to quickly understand the image - it must be clear. They can be used throughout your speech but try to only use visual aids for essential points as it can be tiring for the audience to skip from one visual to another.
Choose your visual aids tactically so you appeal to your audience. This means finding images your audience can relate to, images they will find familiar and images they will like. Also think about what style of visual aid is suitable for the audience; is it quite a serious presentation? Can you be humorous? Is it more formal or informal?
When watching this video, notice how the presenters:
There are a variety of different types of visual aids, you must decide which will suit your presentation and your audience.
Microsoft PowerPoint is widely used for presentations because it's easy to create attractive and professional presentations and it's simple to modify and reorganise content compared to other visual aids. You can insert a range of visual items into the slides which will improve the audience's focus. Also, the audience can generally see slideshows better than other visual aids and you don't have to face away from them. However, your presentation can look unprofessional if this software is used poorly.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two examples of live product demos:
Try to find out what the presentation room is like beforehand, such as, the layout of the room, the equipment etc, so you can see if your visual aids are appropriate and whether they will work there but always have a contingency plan regardless. Also remember that the audience should be able to understand an image almost immediately.
Before your presentation, ensure that you practice with your visual aids so you know how to operate the equipment. If something goes wrong you'll have a better chance of solving the problem.
Research suggests that using colour increases people's motivation to read and their enthusiasm for a presentation. Software like PowerPoint is great for producing colour visuals.
Using the colour wheel can help when choosing your presentation's colours:
The Adobe colour wheel, which helps you pick complementary colours for your presentation design.
Avoid using too many colours in your presentation as this can look cluttered and unprofessional and keep your colour themes continuous, for example, if you highlight all the key words on one slide in blue, continue to do this throughout the presentation. Also be careful with colour associations. for example, in many cultures red is linked to danger. Try to represent your words and topics with colours that make sense and are appropriate.
Many people are blue-green or red-green colour-blind so avoid putting these colours next to each other’s in, for example, a graph. If you cannot avoid placing these colours next to each other then use text to clearly label items.
Research suggests that information displayed visually is well remembered: "retention of information three days after a meeting or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone." (U.S. Department of Labor OSHA Office of Training and Education, 1996)
There is also significant evidence suggesting that most learning occurs visually - some researchers suggest that 83% of human learning happens visually. The psychologist Bruner conducted multiple studies which suggest that people remember 80% of what they see and do, 20% of what they read and only 10% of what they hear.
Visual aids are worth including in your presentations because they can help you explain information more coherently which makes presenting easier for you and learning easier for the audience. They also help add variety to your presentation thus making it more interesting for the audience. If the audience understand what you're saying and they are more engaged, they're more likely to be persuaded by you.