A picture is worth a thousand words:
Some Tips for Using Visual Aids:

On the one hand, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota in 1986 showed that when computer-generated overhead transparencies or slides where used to present an idea, the presenter was perceived to be 43 percent more persuasive than in meetings with unaided presentations. The study concluded that the use of visuals could reduce the length of a typical meeting by 28 percent.

But on the other hand, major corporations such as Ford, Sun Microsystems and the U.S. military have begun to restrict the use of PowerPoint presentations in their meetings because they waste time and get in the way of a good presentation.


Tips for computer slide shows

Graphic design tips

  1. Base your decisions whether or not to use visual aids on the unique speech situation facing you.
    1. Would some of my points be difficult or impossible to make without some sort of visual?
    2. Do I want to use a visual to reinforce some particularly important points?
    3. How much does this audience already know about the subject? How much can they get just by listening?
    4. How much time will I have?
    5. What equipment is available?
    6. What kind of visual is my audience expecting?
      1. Kenneth Burke defined form as that which creates and fulfills desires and expectations in the audience.
        1. Most communication has some form that people expect it to follow--an Elizabethan sonnet, an annual report.
        2. If the communication doesn't follow the form, people feel cheated.
      2. Therefore, a good speaker will consider what the audience expects from him or her and adapt to that expectation. If they expect visual aids, it may be appropriate to use them.
      3. However, there are times when you can violate the expected form.
        1. Some great works of art either violate are alter the expected form.
        2. A speaker can do this if his or her message is particularly strong in some other way; it will, therefore, hold the audience for some reason other than following the expected form.
  2. Remember your options.
    1. The different types of visuals available to you.
      1. People
      2. Actual objects
      3. Models
      4. Figurative representations
      5. Maps
      6. Charts and graphs
      7. Pictures
    2. The different media available to you.
      1. Handouts
      2. Overheads
      3. Computer overheads (more tips about using a computer projector)
      4. Flip charts
      5. Chalkboard
      6. Audio tape
      7. Poster
      8. Slides
      9. Video tape
    3. Keep it clear and simple
    4. A Centel marketing administrator: "The simpler you make the graph, the more effective you are in getting what you're trying to do approved."

      Another executive: "When you only have three minutes to go in and make a presentation, the graphs really help."

    1. In general:
      1. Be a minimalist.
      2. Make it easy for the audience to get it.
      3. See a sample.
    2. Keep it simple.
      1. Don't mix too many fonts
      2. Use a lot of white space
      3. No more than 15 words on an overhead
      4. Use clipart sparingly.
        1. Don't just decorate.
        2. Using a company logo--yours or your customers'--is effective.
      5. Use chart legends sparingly.
        1. You don't want the audience to have to work to figure out the symbols.
        2. Put the necessary information right on the bars or slices.
      6. Limit pie slices to 6 or 8.
      7. Don't use both colors and patterns. Use patterns sparingly.
      8. Use arrows sparingly. Too many defeats the purpose.
      9. Use 3D charts with caution.
        1. Make sure your audience can see the data.
        2. They may be, in effect, sitting behind a column.
      10. Use fireworks only if you're trying to attract attention, not if you have a captive audience.
      11. Use animation effects and transitions sparingly. Only one kind of transition per show.
    3. Use contrasting colors
      1. Avoid red-green combinations because they are hard to see.
      2. Darker backgrounds for slides; lighter backgrounds for transparencies.
      3. Blue backgrounds are best.
    4. Keep continuity
      1. colors
      2. borders
      3. etc.
    5. Make it big enough
      1. If this means fewer words, that's ok.
      2. Don't use all upper case letters
      3. Here are some pointers
        1. Charts
          1. Titles: 3"
          2. Subtitles: 2"
          3. Other text: 1.5"
        2. Transparencies:
          1. Titles: 36 pt
          2. Subtitles: 24 pt
          3. Other text: 18 pt
        3. Slides
          1. Titles: 24 pt
          2. Subtitles: 18 pt
          3. Other text: 14 pt
        4. Handouts
          1. Titles: 18 pt
          2. Subtitles: 14 pt
          3. Other text: 12 pt
    6. Watch spelling and spacing.
    7. Experiment in private.
  3. Plan how you will use the visual
    1. Decide what to use and when to use it.
    2. Have the equipment you need to display it--tape, tacks, etc.
    3. Know your equipment. Know that it works.
    4. Introduce the visual as close as possible to the time when you will refer to it. Don't let it become a distraction. Try distributing handouts whenever they will be most effective and cause the least distraction.
    5. Be prepared to compensate for the distraction a visual may cause.
      1. Build more repetition into your speech so no one misses an important point while reading a handout.
      2. When using projected materials either:
        1. talk more loudly and vigorously when communicating along with the machine.
        2. refuse to compete at all. Talk before or after the visual.
    6. Integrate the visual into your speech.
      1. Talk about it. "Our plan, shown here by the solid line...."
      2. Or point to it.
    7. Maintain eye contact.
    8. Practice.
Remember--these are visual aids. The visual should aid the speaker, not the other way around
See a sample of a presentation using various visual aids.
See a sample of an internal corporate report using visual aids.

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This page was last modified on Thursday, January 16, 2003.
You may contact the instructor at SHKaminski@yahoo.com
This material is for the exclusive use of the students in classes taught by Steven H. Kaminski. Unauthorized use is prohibited.