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Visual Aids

Tips on Preparing Audio/Visual Materials

  • Use visuals only when they augment the presentation.
  • Use visuals only if they do not detract from the presentation.
  • Use adequate letter height on the visuals. If there is too much information to be read clearly from the farthest distance in a room, create a handout instead.
  • Use visuals as a highlight. Too many visuals are as ineffective as none at all.
  • Keep charts and graphs simple. Avoid extra verbiage.
  • Use familiar formats or designs; avoid novelty effects (unless a novel approach would lend itself better to emphasizing a point).
  • Use color sparingly.
  • Provide a generous space between lines on a visual.
  • Use block style letters for the best effect.
  • Use a combination of upper and lower case letters to make visuals easier to read.
  • Confine each visual to one idea or point.
  • Title all visuals.
  • Number the visuals in the order you will use them. Mark the visual in an area that won't be visible on the screen.
  • Examine each visual with this question in mind: "Is this totally understandable to everyone, regardless of prior knowledge or experience?" If a visual becomes too complex, convert the idea into a handout.
  • Keep the visual on the screen only while the topic is being discussed, and do not move on to the next visual until all discussion regarding the previous visual has completed.
  • If necessary, use a pointer to call out the details. This keeps everyone's eyes focused on the discussion, while allowing you to face the audience.
  • Consider using pictures that explain or represent the concept you are discussing versus lines and lines of bullets.

Choosing the appropriate visual aid

Using at least one type of visual aid will help to hold the attention of the audience, and using more than one visual aid helps add variety to presentations. Visual aids also act as prompts to presenters and take the focus of the audience away from a nervous presenter. Following are some of the visual aid options that are available:
  • Flipcharts—Use for prepared examples or for impromptu examples that you can refer to later.
  • Video—Good for showing a concept or procedure visually. Avoid videos that are strictly a "talking head".
  • Electronic Presentation (PowerPoint, Harvard Graphics, Freelance Plus)—Easy to prepare and to modify on the spot; offer a wide variety of visual options (colors, fonts, charts, graphs, layouts).

Which visual aid is right for your presentation?

  • Consider the amount of interaction/participation you wish to have with the audience.
  • Consider the amount of material you wish to present in the allotted time segment. Material can often be condensed or quickly summarized by using a graphic.
  • Consider your comfort level in using the equipment required for each visual aid. Do not attempt to employ equipment that you do not know how to operate, as you will end up looking unprepared in front of your audience.