Panic Free Presentation Skills – Tips for Visual Aids

Susan Schoenfeld has over 20 years of corporate experience as a Professional Development Director, Consultant and Training Manager. In this clip from her webinar, “Panic Free Presentation Skills”, she presents some tips for using visual aids in your presentations.

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Visual aids. I gave you one visual aid to look at, and it was in your handout and it showed some graphs. And if you look at these graphs, it says, “Avoid this, avoid this.” And the reason it says avoid is because there’s way too much information. Nobody can sit and read all that information on that graph.

White Space

When you have a visual aid, you want lots of white space. So instead of having that graph, what you can do is make a pie chart or some kind of a graph, a bar graph, something that would show the numbers or the statistics without having everything written down.

Write Your Presentation First

When you do your visual aids, you should write your presentation first. So write the presentation first and then think about, well, what would be the appropriate visual aid to go along with that presentation? What would fit? You don’t want to use a visual aid for the sake of using a visual aid. It has to add something to the presentation.


You also want to practice. Practice your presentation using the visual aid once again so you feel comfortable with it, and secondly, because it’s going to affect the timing.

Types of Visual Aids

So let’s think about some of the different types of visual aids you can use. Well, the most common type is PowerPoint, and we’ll be talking about that in a minute. In addition to PowerPoint, you might be using something called a flip chart. And a flip chart is like an easel, like an artist easel with a big sketch pad. And this is great when you have to make a presentation in an office, or when you want to be interactive and you want to write something down during the presentation, you can have a flip chart. You would use magic markers. You would make sure that the magic marker was a red or a blue or a black, a dark color so people can read it. You would make sure that you print only on the flip chart.

And this is very important, you want to have a blank piece of paper between each sheet that you write. Now, the reason for this is, as a speaker, you should be egocentric. You want your audience looking at you when you are speaking. So when you refer to the visual aid, you turn your blank piece of paper over and you can point to the visual aid. When you’re finished with that visual aid, you flip it over so the audience sees a blank piece of paper until you are ready for the next visual aid. So remember that unless you are talking about that visual aid, you should have a blank piece of paper in between it.

Now, if you’re using a visual aid, you want to make sure that it’s large enough to be seen by the person in the last row. If it’s not large enough to be seen, you should either use it as a handout where you run off copies, or, you can put it on a PowerPoint slide.

Another thing that you want to do is your visual aid should be out of sight until you need it. So when I do this program live, I mention the idea of a tennis ball and moving the tennis ball back and forth. If I was speaking in front of a podium and I had that tennis ball sitting at the podium when I began the speech, you’d be sitting and saying, “I wonder what that tennis ball is for. Why has she got a tennis ball out there?” So instead I keep it out of sight until I say, “You should take a ball like this one and move it from hand to hand to relax you prior to a presentation.”

When you have handouts to give to your audience, you want to give those handouts either before or after your speech. You never want to give a handout during the speech. Now, I think you’ve all experienced it where somebody passes out handouts in the middle of their presentation. Somebody drops the handouts. They’re picking it up. People started talking while they’re getting the handout. They look at the handout and concentration is lost.

If I give the handout before I speak, what I do is I put it face down on people’s desk. And then before I begin, I say, “I’ve given each of you a handout and I’ll be referring to it later during my talk.” And then people know they’re going to be told to look at that handout. If I give that handout following my speech, I want to mention that so people don’t think I forgot to give it to them. So I might say, “Well, I have lots of contact information for you and further reading that you can do, and I’ll be giving you a handout after my talk today.” So you don’t want to give a handout during the speech.

What you do or what I like to do is if I use PowerPoint slides, I run them off as a handout three slides to a page. And when I run them off as a handout, they have lines so people can take notes. As a teacher, I know that people learn by seeing, by doing and by listening. So they see the handout, they write the notes, and they listen to me speak. So that’s why I like to give my handouts as a three slides to a page handout format.

I mentioned a flip chart to you. You also might use an object, as I mentioned, whether it’s a tennis ball, whether it’s a model home or a model airplane. All of those work nicely.

Another visual certainly can be a movie of some kind. Lots of times you can give a short movie clip from YouTube. And if you’re using any kind of movie as your visual aid, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’ve checked that the volume is where you want it. Make sure that you click the full page for the movie or slide, and make sure that it’s set where you wanted, that you don’t have a commercial or anything before it so it goes right into what it is you wanted to do.

Tips for Using Visual Aids

When you use a visual aid, it’s important to talk to your audience, not your visual aid. So what that means is lots of times people will turn their back and they’ll be looking at the visual aid when they give their speech. You want to turn to your side so the audience can see you and your head is turned towards the visual aid. Some people like to buy like a little light, a pointer, and so they use the light and they click it on the visual aid. And that’s good when you have a lot of numbers or statistics in particular. That’s an effective tool.

The same thing with changing your slides. If you want to be able to move during a presentation, having a clicker, a portable clicker which you can purchase at Best Buy or any place like that, means you don’t have to stand at the computer. You can click your slides and move at the same.

Whenever you are doing any charts or graphs or PowerPoints, you don’t want to have a lot of different fonts or too many colors. It becomes distracting. So no more than two fonts. What I do very often is I might have one font for my slide intro and then another font for the information on the slide, but never more than two fonts. And if you notice my color scheme, I don’t have a lot of colors on my slide. I want to make sure it’s easy to read.

You can use audio also as a type of visual aid. In other words, you’re playing a tape of something, and, as I mentioned, video and objects.

So those are the visual aids that I’d like to mention in addition to a graph of this kind. So when you are discussing a process or different steps, you might take something and you might put it as a slide. And here’s just if I want to review the different steps for financial planning, this is a great way to do it. I can create a slide like this. There’s lots of templates. So for any process, use a template, use it as a slide, and you can go through it one by one as you touch each point.

Video, you’d have a video link like this as part of your slide. You click on the link and then everybody can watch your video.

Using PowerPoint

Let’s talk for a minute about PowerPoint, the most important of visual aids. One of the biggest problems with PowerPoint is people read it. They put every word that they’re going to say on the PowerPoint slide and they read it. Remember, a speech is a conversation. It must be spoken.

So when you do a PowerPoint presentation, you want to have a contrasting color, either dark against light like my subject line, or light against dark like my bullet points. You don’t ever want to have more than six words per line. And if you go through this presentation, you’ll see that I never have more than six words on a bullet. And I don’t want to have more than six lines or six bullet points.

I also want to make sure that even if I have just one little point on a slide, I don’t want to combine the next point. I want to make sure that I have one idea for each visual. So what I can do is if I have just one thing to say, then I can add an image to go along with that slide, but I don’t want to combine different ideas on one visual.

I also want to make sure I use the same type of graphics. So that means when I look at Google images, for example, to get a picture, I can have either a photograph or I can have some little like a caricature of some kind. I want to make sure that I either use all photographs or all little caricatures. And today in business, most people use all photographs.

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