Visual Aids in Speech

Visual Aids in Speeches: When to use them and when to not?

So much of the content we consume is visual. It is no wonder it can enhance the impact of your speech as well.

They can be a great tool for the audience to follow your speeches more clearly. Especially if your speech is demonstrative, adding visual aids will only benefit your overall presentation.

When you are giving a public speech, you want the audience to ideally listen to the message you are trying to convey.

However, there are many types of visual aids that can add a refreshing aid to your main message. 

What are visual aids?

Visual aids can include a wide variety of items such as handouts, slides, videos, posters, models, and more.

The purpose of these visual aids is to reinforce your main message. There are many reasons why you might consider adding visual aids to your presentation. Some of them can be as follows:

  • Present clear examples.
  • Provide a concise summary.
  • Emphasize your points.
  • Add credibility through references and facts.
  • Give clear demonstrations.
  • Help the audience understand better.
  • Reduce the number of spoken words. For instance: showing a visual graph than boring your audience with data.
  • Create a stronger impact. For instance: if your presentation is on the environmental risks of plastic usage, you may show images of the negative effects of plastics on marine life and pollution rather than simply describing this. Try to envision what you want your audience to feel – do you want them to empathize, feel sad, happy, or angry? Plan accordingly.
  • Reiterate and make your points memorable.
  • Engage the audience and maintain their interest.

Things to keep in mind when using visual aids

While visual aids are certainly a great addition to your speech, you still want to make sure that they do not distract from your main message.

It is very easy to go overboard with visual aids. This is why we have below a convenient checklist of things to keep in mind when using visual aids:

Relevancy

Visual Aids in Speeches: When to use them and when to not? 1

You need to ensure that the visual aids you pick are relevant to your speech. You want your visual aids to add to your message.

Often you see speakers hand out flyers or sheets during their presentations. This is very distracting and ensures that you are wasting valuable stage time as well.

The best time to provide these handouts is after your speech so they can have a brief overview of your speech. You can also provide them before your speech provided that they have enough time to skim through and then pay attention to your speech.

Visibility

When using slides, font size is an important factor. The same is the case with charts, whiteboards, posters, and so on.

You have to be considerate about the audience that is listening in from the back of the room.

There is no point in incorporating visual aids if everyone is straining to see them. Once you decide to use these additional materials, make sure it is visible and legible.

Variation

Variation refers to when you are looking to use multiple types of visual aids. Typically, we recommend you stick to one variety as multiple may be difficult to manage.

However, if you feel that it is supportive of your speech, you can definitely go for it. Just make sure that the variation adds further intrigue.

Try not to throw too much data at them, such as charts, graphs, and more. If your speech is data-centric, try to make it visually appealing by experimenting with the variety of visual aids at your disposal.

Attractiveness

When it comes to visual aids, pay attention to quality. If you’re not particularly adept at the software needed for your presentation, try to get help from someone who is.

Cluttered or unorganized visual aids can harm your speech more than not using them entirely. You want to make sure that anything you display does not take away from your credibility.

Appropriateness

Make sure that your visual aids match your message. For instance: you typically wouldn’t use charts and data for a humorous speech.

Never use visual aids just for the sake of using them and make sure that it is appropriate to the message of your speech. 

Types of visual aids

There are a variety of visual aids. From slides to posters and models, you need to decide which will suit your presentation as well as your audience.

PowerPoint

Visual Aids in Speeches: When to use them and when to not? 2

PowerPoint or Google Slides are a fairly common visual aid used in presentations. Nowadays, with all the widely available themes, both premium and free, it has become easy to create professional-looking slides within minutes. This is a great medium and can be quite versatile if you know what you’re doing. 

From simple bullet points to picture slides, PowerPoint is a surefire to take your public speaking to the next level.

With simple modifications and reorganization, you can take your visual content to the next level. You can experiment with colors and pictures.

There is a good reason why PowerPoint has stood the test of time as an effective visual aid. They’re easy to make and visible to a wide audience.

If incorporated well, it can work great with your presented speech. However, it is easy to go wrong with this. Make sure you don’t go overboard with the colors and keep the slides professional.

How to:

  • Use a plain and simple background.
  • Stick to one or two fonts and font sizes.
  • Avoid large blocks of text and use bullet points to summarise key points.
  • Avoid using multi-colored texts that can be difficult to read.
  • Try to limit the number of important points you add to one screen.
  • Use a larger font size so that the whole room can follow.
  • If there is a lot of detail, you might want to provide handouts so that the information is easy to understand.
  • Use your slides only to enhance your presentation and be prepared for technical glitches.
  • Don’t try to add too many images or animations without a purpose so as to avoid any unnecessary distractions.
  • There is always a risk for technical glitches. As such, come prepared with handouts or be prepared to go without the visual aids if needed.

Whiteboards

Whiteboards are an excellent visual aid for a speech. These are best fitted for when you need to explain complex processes.

It is also useful when the audience needs to follow along to a cycle or if your speech includes complex phrases.

Whiteboards can be a great tool in audience participation. You can jot down any suggestions made by the audience.

They can also display key points of information throughout the meeting to keep your message centered.

How to:

  • If you’re going to be changing the information repeatedly, make sure that the audience has had the time to properly understand the message before erasing.
  • Make sure you write in big block letters that are easily visible and legible.
  • Try not to have your back facing the audience for too long.
  • Practice well beforehand as you want to avoid any hand tremors as you write in front of the audience.

Handouts

When addressing a larger audience, you might want to make sure that the audience can easily access visual aids.

In these cases, it is best to go for handouts. These are handy summaries that contain the key points from your speech.

It will make it easy for your listeners to follow. When it comes to slides or whiteboard information, there is always a chance that the audience might not be keeping up.

However, if they have their personal handout, they can glance at this information and keep track of the main message. This is also much more effective than having the audience have to take notes.

How to:

  • Usually, handouts are given at the end of your presentation so that the audience has a handy reminder of your key message.
  • Try not to interrupt the flow of your speech by distributing them during your speech.
  • If you are handing these out at the beginning of your speech, try not to overload the paper with too much information. You might end up overwhelming the audience, and they might not end up paying attention to your speech.
  • Make sure your handout includes the graphs, charts, or any other visual data that you may have in your speech. This will help them grasp the impact much more easily.

Flip chart

Flip charts are quite an old-school visual aid. However, they are the best option when you want to present at a budget but don’t have the tech needed on hand.

Flip charts act as a great supplement to your spoken information. The drawback is that these often limit you to smaller audiences.

The information needs to be easily visible, which is more likely for smaller groups. This does make it perfect for team meetings and brainstorming ideas.

You can have your key points easily displayed or include charts and graphs as you go. Instead of having a consistent topic displayed like a whiteboard or having to turn your back to the audience as you erase and rewrite, you can simply flip the pages and carry on.

How to:

  • Make sure you check the order of the charts beforehand and have extra sheets on hand should you need them.
  • Try not to stuff too much information into one chart. Limit your key points so that your information is easy to follow.
  • Separate different inks for different information. For instance, use red ink to highlight anything important so that the information does not get lost in the mix.
  • Use large letters that are easy to read.
  • Before you begin your speech, check with the audience whether or not they can clearly see the charts.
  • Practice beforehand so that your speech is well in tune with your speech before you go in front of the audience.
  • When summarizing, flip back through the main charts so the audience can recollect more easily.

Posters

Posters are a great visual aid, especially when you are trying to promote an event or occasion.

They are portable, budget-friendly, and will not require any technology on board. These are usually more suited for informal events but can also be used to jazz up any formal presentation.

Unlike the other options, posters can typically be as complex and detailed as you want them to be or as the budget allows for it to be.

How to:

  • Incorporate attractive colors.
  • Use block letters and experiment with fonts.
  • Try to stick to one message per poster.
  • Posters are more suitable to smaller audiences due to.
  • For a larger audience, visibility can be a big problem, so unless you have multiple posters on hand, we’d recommend against it.

Products or Objects

Products or objects can be an excellent way to give the audience a visual demonstration. This can include small-scale versions of your products or detailed models.

You can have multiple objects depending on the audience size. These can add a lot more interaction as the audience can feel more immersed in your presentation. Products are the best for when you need to demonstrate an experiment.

How to:

  • If the audience is small, you can pass the object around, but remember to plan these gaps into your speech time so that they don’t miss out on key points.
  • If the audience is large, you might need multiple objects or allot a larger time slot so that the audience can follow your presentation properly.
  • Spend some time explaining the object and your purpose for demonstrating it.
  • Do not display the audience until it’s time for the demonstration, as it might be distracting for the audience. 
  • For demonstrative presentations, try to move slowly so that it is easy to follow. Repeat the key steps of the experiment and make sure you check with the audience to see if they are on track.

Preparing your visual aids

What are the things you need to keep in mind once you decide to incorporate visual aids into the presentation?

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a successful visual aids demonstration. Here are a few tips on how you can prepare to ensure that nothing goes wrong on your big day:

  • Before picking your visual aid medium, think about whether or not it adequately supports your message. Are you clear on what the audience’s focus should be on?
  • Check the order of the slides or charts beforehand. Make sure that your speech and visual aids are in tune so that it is easy for the audience to follow. 
  • Any form of visual aids you pick needs to look clean and professional. 
  • Make sure you use clear images or fonts.
  • Keep the theme, colors, and fonts consistent as you can risk looking cluttered otherwise.
  • Try to use visual representations of data such as graphs and charts over tabular data.
  • Never include blocks of text as it might confuse the audience on whether to read or follow your vocal speech.
  • Use bullet points for your main messages.
  • Do not overwhelm the audience with more than one key message at once.
  • It is easy to go overboard with visual aids. Make sure they are only used to enhance your message and do not take over your presentation.
  • Always be prepared to give the speech without your visual aids in case of any technical problems. Your presentation should never depend on your visual aids.
  • Whenever you have moving components in your presentation, you should practice well and minimize any chances of mishaps on the day of the demonstration. 
  • Try to practice in front of smaller audiences so that you can catch any mistakes that you may have missed. 

During the presentation

So you’ve prepared your visual aids, there are still a couple of things you need to keep in mind during the presentation. These things are important in order to ensure that the audience receives the full impact of the visual aids that you have incorporated.

  • There’s no point in using visual aids that aren’t visible. Make sure the audience, both in the front and back, can clearly see the information presented.
  • Don’t turn your back to the audience unless absolutely unnecessary.
  • Make sure you practice well so that you are not reading off your visual aids.
  • Explain the object properly so that the audience can understand what to pay attention to.
  • Visual aids can be quite distracting to the audience, so make sure to only display it when necessary. Once you are done using the aid, remove it so that the focus of the audience returns back to you.

Other helpful tips for visual aids:

Using a visual aid comes with quite a lot of advantages. However, it can be easy to miss little things that might end up ruining your presentation. Here are some additional tips to help guide you:

  • Try to avoid flashy colors or switch between too many colors as it might be distracting for the listeners. For example, shades of blue or yellow might be way too loud for an official presentation.
  • Static images tend to bore the audience, and they might lose interest, so make sure you switch the slides and charts around with your speech.
  • Keep your visual aids clean and professional. Try not to use animations, stickers, or WordArt unless appropriate for your audience.
  • Try to stick to a single font or at most two fonts to maintain consistency in your presentation.
  • Use different font sizes or bold lettering to effectively present your data.

Should you use visual aids in your speech?

You’ve learned how to use visual aids, but you might still be wondering whether it is, in fact, a good addition to your speech itself.

Ask yourself: What could I show (or demonstrate) that would enhance my presentation? Remember, It is better to go for a few simple and well-prepared props than to go overboard and overwhelm the audience. It’s completely okay if you decide that props are not for you and modify your topic accordingly.

Think about it. 

If you were sitting in the audience, would you like to only hear about a holiday in Russia? Or would it be better to see pictures? Wouldn’t that be a more immersive experience?

What about if the speaker included souvenirs and sweets?

Do the same with your topic at hand. Does your topic require you to present data that can be presented better? Would a colorful poster boost initiative from your audience members?

If yes, then it’s time to get yourself some visual aids.

If you’re still confused then take a brief look at the pros and cons of using visual aids in your speech:

Pros of using visual aids:

Here are the main advantages of incorporating visual aids in your presentation:

Clarity

Using only one medium can get repetitive and boring. Besides, there is only so much transition that you can introduce.

With visual aids, you can explain concepts or events much more efficiently.

Rather than explain the steps and risk losing the audience’s focus, you can simply use bullet points to keep them on track.

Similarly, using pictures makes the audience feel as though they are a part of this experience itself.

Especially when you are trying to evoke a feeling in your audience, images of the devastating impacts of deforestation on wildlife will be much more effective in convincing the listeners to take a stand for climate change than sheer numbers. Emotion is a powerful tool, and clarity is a step closer to mastering it.

Credibility

For a public speech, being a gifted orator definitely takes you a long way. However, credibility is earned through facts. You are more likely to sway the audience in your favor if you come armed with references.

Even when it comes to statistics, a visual representation will add a lot more credibility to your presentation. The audience will find it easier to connect and will be paying a lot more attention to your words.

Cons of using visual aids:

Here are the main disadvantages of incorporating visual aids in your presentation:

Distraction

It is easy to go overboard with visual aids. The wrong color combination or illegible fonts are common mistakes that might risk you losing your credibility in front of the audience.

Many speakers are not well versed or lack the practice required. As a result, there can be a lot of fumbling, which also adds to the distraction.

Most people do not double-check their presented information. Apparent mistakes can have the audience doubting you. Therefore, if you’re not entirely sure that the visual aids will add to your presentation, then it is better to go without you. 

Design Problems

You need to make sure that the visual aids you use match the audience you will be addressing.

There can be a lot of design problems while doing so. For instance: if you’re giving a persuasive speech, it is vital that you design your slides or posters to look as inviting as possible.

Similarly, no matter how good you think your images are, there is a risk of putting too much information onto your slides.

Many speakers do not spend enough time learning exactly how to use visual aids, and it ends up doing more harm than good.

Wrapping up,

And there you go, folks! Visual aids are an excellent addition to your public speech. They can add not just clarity and credibility but also emotion and connection to your message.

For a more extended presentation, these can help to keep the audience’s attention going. Mastering visual aids can add that effortless charm to your public speech.

However, it is essential to know when to use them and when to avoid them. Similarly, if you do decide to add these visual aids, then it’s better to come prepared and practice until they become a natural part of your presentation.

We hope our tips and tricks help you in delivering a rocking performance. All the best!