Presenting With Visual Aids: To Do or Not to Do?
July 24, 2018 by Angela Crossan

Visual aids, such as PowerPoint presentations, are a rather controversial topic in the world of public speaking. While some professionals will advocate for their use and benefits, others claim they are distracting and should be eradicated from the practice. 

What is a presenter to do? Use visual aids or abandon the practice? 

Visual aids and PowerPoint should be thought of as tools that are available to assist you in getting your point across, but not one that should be heavily relied on like a crutch. The following are the top five things that every presenter needs to be aware of when choosing a visual aid for a presentation.

  • Remember the 4x4 rule. – If using a slideshow presentation for display purposes only (not to convey facts, quotes, full documents, and such), then there should be 4 bullet points or less per slide, with each bullet point containing no more than 4 words. By adhering to this rule, you will not distract your audience from what you are saying but will still have a prompt to guide you through the speech. 
  • If using a graph, make it purposeful. – Sometimes presenters think simply adding a graph to a PowerPoint presentation will make a big impact, but this is not always the case. In many cases, the information is too detailed, too busy, and just too hard to read for your audience. If adding a graph to your visual aid would be truly beneficial to your presentation, make sure that every part of it is clearly legible and that the font is large enough to actually be read by your audience.
  • Use diagrams instead of words. - Flowcharts, timelines, and process diagrams are all great ways to get big ideas across to your audience in a quick, easy-to-understand format. If you use a diagram, remember the rules of the graph and keep it from being cluttered or hard to read. Instead of listening to you, your audience will spend time trying to read and understand the diagram. 
  • Use pictures, not ClipArt. – This isn’t the 90’s and super generic ClipArt will not go over well anymore. Adding real, meaningful photos to your presentation can not only help you get your point across, but can also help keep your audience members engaged with what you are saying. “A picture paints a thousand words” is not just an old adage, but also a very true statement when it comes to driving a point home.
  • Keep things interesting. – Monotony is the enemy when it comes to crafting an effective visual aid for your presentation. Keep things interesting by including pictures, diagrams, text, and other visuals throughout the duration of the speech.

Using visual aids during a public speaking engagement can be very effective and useful for both you and your audience, but only when they are done correctly. Be sure to keep these tips in mind when creating your next visual aid!