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presentation training Visual aids p25

It is advisable to talk for more than about 10 minutes without some sort of visual aid. Visual aids should be used with discretion – there purpose is to reinforce what you have to say, rather than to repeat what you have said.

The purpose of using visual aids is:

• To support your presentation

• To enhance your message

• To provide interest and change of pace

All visual aids should:

• Provide instant understanding

• No ambiguity – one clear message


Visual aids are an obvious way of getting far more interest, participation and professionalism into any talk. They also often mean a lot less hard work for the speaker. People enjoy looking at things and visual aids can add variety to any talk.


Explain a point
If is often far easier to explain a point with a visual aid. This is neat presenting, and also involves hearing and seeing.

Aid to memory
Pictures are far easier to remember, even if these pictures are in the form of graphs or formulae. (A picture is worth 1,000 words – old Chinese saying).

To create interest
A dull subject can be made interesting with a picture. Think of visual aids which will help to create interest.

Change the pace
The easy way is to introduce a visual aid, it is something different, and can inject new interest very quickly.

Visual Aids

Use a visual aid to refer back to a point you covered earlier. Sometimes you have to repeat exactly the same thing over and over again, and a good visual will make this much more acceptable.

Bringing out imagination
If you are trying to get the group to think of new things a visual aid will start the ball rolling. It is amazing how a visual aid will spark off ideas in a group.

Things to play with
If you are describing a particular problem, people like to handle the objects you are trying to explain. This gets good participation and contact from the floor. You are using all three senses, i.e. hearing, seeing and touching when you incorporate the use of samples round the floor. But beware their becoming a distraction.


Look at the audience
Don’t talk at or to the Visual Aid. Make sure that you are talking to the audience when you refer to the visual aid. Arrange the flip chart, board or projector in such a way that you can do this.

Don’t talk and draw at the same time. Take as much time as you want to draw the visual aid so that as you draw, the audience follows you and is involved in thinking and anticipating what is going to follow next.

Use colour
Wherever possible, use more than one colour. Colour will give you interest, and is a good way of distinguishing between various aspects which you are trying to explain. A stage at a time is the best way to put things over – use a different colour for the different stages.

Keep hidden
Make sure that the visual aid is kept hidden until you are ready. It is distracting for an audience to see the speaker holding some form of visual aid and not showing it.

Use the visual aid dramatically. It is the unexpected which leaves an impression.

Show once then remove
Do not leave the visual aid hanging around after you have made the point. Put them away so that you know where they are as you may need to use them again for recapitulation.

Make sure the audience can see
All typeface should be clearly visible from the back of the room. Therefore as presenters if is our responsibility to check venues well before presentations, so visual aids can be altered if necessary.



• Not permanent display
• Can’t refer back at later time in the presentation
• Can’t pre-prepare visual aid and keep hidden
• After constant use looks more and more untidy

• Most presentation rooms have one
• Easy to list points arising in a presentation immediately


• Limited space
• Have to write tidily
• Tendency to scribble

• Permanent record
• Can refer back to points illustrated previously
• Can pre-prepare a visual aid and keep covered up
• Clean and tidy
• Can introduce variation of colour very easily


• Distracts attention from the speaker – people are looking elsewhere; at your visual aid
• Must have screen or suitable wall
• Incorrect set up blocks audience view
• Models have different switch layouts

• Easy to use with practice beforehand
• Professional impression


• Need quite a lot of professional preparation
• Not very flexible
• Bulky to carry around
• Need careful storing so that they don’t become tatty

• Give professional touch to a presentation
• Shows you have taken trouble in preparation
• Unusual
• Table top presenters are light and easy to move


• Need careful preparation

• Samples can be passed around the room, involving a sense of touch
• Added interest
• Giving people examples of actual things they will have to deal with


• Needs a lot planning
• Things can go wrong
• Need experience to use successfully
• Can be a distraction if not used in the right way
• Expensive

• Fun
• Professional touch
• Anticipation of group
• New slide projectors are highly flexible


• Need careful preparation
• Colour and image varies
• Quality in different rooms
• Expensive, some bulbs cost £500+

• Multimedia
• Flexible
• Zoom lenses
• Remote controls
• Added interest
• State of the ark
• Lightweight and portable


• Use only for small presentations

• Multimedia
• Flexible
• Added interest
• Lightweight and portable


• Can be seen as “Low Tech”
• Can get scruffy
• Written pages can be messy

• Professional impression
• Visual focal point
• Text and illustrations reinforce points
• Can be used over and over again
• Good for small groups
• Easily portable


Setting up the overhead projector
• Everyone must be able to see you and the screen

• Do it BEFORE the audience arrive

• Check the position. Left or right handed?

• Set the screen at an angle to the audience – not straight in front. This will prevent you blocking audience view

• Use a sloping screen to avoid distortion

• Test focus and visibility from where audience will be sitting before your presentation

• If possible put on low table so that surface of OHP is at table top height

• Check you have a spare bulb

• Check whether you need an extension lead

• Check everyone can see

Using the overhead projector
• Use landscape slides (not portrait). These utilise screen space more effectively

• Get your first slide on the OHP before starting

• Number all slides

• Practise – make it look simple

• Look at your audience. The transparency is for their benefit not the speaker’s so don’t use it as your own notes

• Switch if off when you have made the point

• Use a masking sheet to reveal points one at a time. Put the masking sheet UNDER the frame

• Use different colours

• Cap pens when not in use – they dry out very quickly

• Point at the transparency not the screen – avoid shadows

• Constantly check focus and that image is central on screen

• Check the size of writing from the back of the room

• Keep simple, 20 words maximum per transparency

• If you use cartoons they should be appropriate to the subject


Plan your presentation
Prepare and practise with your team. Work with your technicians throughout so everyone understands exactly what is required. Examine the premises beforehand and ensure everything is visible from the back of the room. Ensure slides are correctly inserted the right way up and round.

Arrive early
Set up your equipment in plenty of time and check everything thoroughly.

Have correct equipment, spare bulbs; and extension leads if required.

You should never present in the dark. So begin your presentation with the lights up so the audience focus on you. Lights should be dimmed so slides are clearly visible and turned up again when you wish attention to be focused on you.

Keep simple
These presentations are often ruined by over-elaborate slides. Use blank (black) slides when you wish the audience to focus attention on you.

Practise and rehearse to build up your confidence. Make sure you can cope with the unexpected.

‘There are things I always forget
names, faces and…
the third I can’t remember’

Halo Svero


Nowadays, there is a high expectation that slides will be prepared and presented professionally. There are a number of excellent packages available on Personal Computers which prepare graphs and diagrams well. These can be plotted out directly onto overhead transparencies using a colour printer.

Therefore, whenever possible, tables and figures should be prepared in this way. Not only does it make the slide clearer, but it adds credibility to the numbers and the message.

There is, nevertheless, a place for hand-drawn slides using coloured pens, since these show a personal involvement and perhaps a degree of realism.

Also with a little imagination and access to a photocopier, it is possible to prepare interesting and amusing slides which get the message home clearly without the need to purchase a PC package.


These are only a means to producing great visual aids that will get message across. Try to avoid being fascinated by the technology and special effects, to the detriment of what you are really trying to say.

Packages like Harvard Graphics 3 and Microsoft’s “PowerPoint” not only enable you to produce good slides, but have a facility whereby you can print off small copies for your audience, and you can also annotate key points in the handouts if you wish.

These packages also have a facility that lets you rehearse the entire presentation. You can run through your delivery, turning to each slide when appropriate, and the computer will time your overall presentation and give you a report on how the time was allocated between the slides.

For important presentations, this can be extremely valuable, since you can do it at your desk without anyone else being involved.


When presenting technical data (and that could also mean financial figures) it is vital that you also consider what MESSAGE you are trying to put across by displaying the information.

The figures almost NEVER speak for themselves – your role as presenter is to interpret the data to make it meaningful information (see creating visuals).

In essence, this means pointing out yourself the significant values or trends and interpreting the consequences of the information for the listener.

The listener is also entitled to say “This is all very interesting but SO WHAT?”

If you cannot answer that SO WHAT without the listener actually having to express the thought, your technical data will have failed.

It is also very important that you know exactly what the figures show.


When tabling figures or graphs, it is always important to ask exactly WHY you are doing so.

It is ESSENTIAL that the actual precise numbers are given, unless the purpose of showing the information merely to show trends. If the latter, round the figures appropriately.

Is the listener expected to register the exact number or would a pictorial representation such as line graph, bar chart or pie chart be adequate to give the message you are trying to put across?

Pictorial representations are essential because they appeal to the other half of the brain. Numbers and words are a left brain function. If you can engage the listener’s whole brain in presenting your data, you are much more likely to have an impact and for the information to be remembered.

Some useful rules for planning layout, if you have to do so manually – sometimes in a hotel room late at night before the presentation the next day, are given next.


1. Layout
• Landscape rather than portrait, so you use the full area of screen.

• Plan it in rough before going onto the transparency.

• Use Design-a-Visual Pad or ordinary graph paper under the transparency. You don’t have to produce a work of art to illustrate your point but your transparency must make a good impression.

• Use diagrams and charts – the simpler the better. Put as much as is necessary and as little as possible on the transparency.

• Photocopying diagrams from books can be useful occasionally. But beware, often they are too complicated for a presentation.

• Use overlays to build up a picture. Never more than 4 because picture brightness will suffer.

• It is better to use a cardboard frame or transparent plastic envelope. This makes handling easier and looks better. Also, you can put your own key words on the frame. With plastic envelopes ensure your slide is inserted correctly, if not you will show only part of the slide.


• Use light pressure to avoid “blobs”- especially starting and finishing.

• Permanent – can be erased with special solvent.

• Soluble – can be wiped off with damp tissue. Beware – damp fingers can smudge. Also soluble can “spread” with the heat.

• Think of using a combination; permanent for parts you will re-use and soluble for adding information during the presentation.

• Use colour.

• Most people prefer fine print.


• Use large type – normal typewriter size is too small.

• Approximately 32 points for headings and 28 points for text. But do check the room size.

• Letterset looks very good and comes in a variety of colours, but is time consuming to use. Most slides are prepared these days using computer generated text.

• Best combinations - coloured letters on clear background
- coloured letters on coloured background
- coloured letters on clear/tinted background

Avoid a lot of print. Keep to key words if possible. One idea per line – 4 words per line. 4 lines per page, 20 words maximum.

• Don’t photocopy pages from a book

• Don’t print vertically.


• There are various types of transparency makers available. They work like photocopiers. You simply put your diagram onto a piece of plain paper and the machine transfers it to the transparency. You can get different coloured transparencies. If you want colour you have to cut out colour film and stick it onto the transparency – this is time consuming and needs to be done well or it looks unprofessional.

• By using special film you can make transparencies with a plain paper copier. Simply draw your diagram on plain white paper using a black felt tip pen. This gives excellent clarity provided you do not want to use colour. It is also much easier to draw or print neatly on paper than directly onto the film.

• Another method is to draw or write directly onto the film. This enables you to use colour and produce very effective illustrations. However, it is more difficult than working on ordinary paper and you cannot show the same amount of detail. Also the pens get blunt very quickly.

• You can generate transparencies from a PC using software such as PowerPoint. These can be printed directly via the printer to the transparency – in colour, if you have a colour printer.

• If the presentation is extremely important or you will be using the transparencies frequently if may be worth having them made up professionally. They will probably use photography and it will be expensive.

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