Visual Aids- Yes or No?

When I talk to people in my workplace about improving presentation skills, I tend to get asked follow-up questions that pertain to Microsoft’s PowerPoint software. Presentations existed before PowerPoint and you don’t need to be a computer expert or computer savvy at all to create visual interest when you speak!

If you are giving an informative speech to an audience with many facts and a lot of data, you can give your audience a hand out so that they may take the information away with them. A handout can help your audience think of you and your speech even after the speech has ended! If you are giving a speech about some of your favorite vacation destinations- you could choose to put a pair of sunglasses on your head when you are talking about the beach. You can change those sunglasses to a scarf when you talk about winter vacations in snowy mountains. Those minor changes create difference and change and can regain the audience’s attention.

Regardless of the visual aid you choose to you, you need to consider when you use it. If you are passing out a handout, do you take a few moments before the speech to hand it out or do you want to pass it out at the end? If you are using presentation slides, will you have a remote clicker or will you need to remain stationery to proceed through them? If you are using some other sort of props- practice with them in front of a mirror. You will get more comfortable with the objects or items this way.

I strongly discourage using props if you are still at the stage with your public speaking skills where you are still reading your speeches word for word or from notes. Props in those cases can be difficult to transition to and from. When you are just getting acquainted with speaking, you want to minimize the number of moving parts and stressful elements you need to contend with.

I also recommend the old cliché that less is more with presentation aids. It is possible to go overboard with props and visual aids. If your presentation slides have too much information on them, your audience will get overwhelmed. If you are constantly fidgeting and putting on and taking off accessories, your audience may start to feel chaotic and antsy in their seats.

With visual aids- plan, rehearse, and rehearse some more!

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