Visual Aids

There are four basic reasons to include visual aids in your speech:

  1. To hold the audience’s attention – by getting the audience involved visually as well as orally, you are more likely to keep their interest.
  2. To serve as a memory aid or learning device – people learn in different ways, some people easily recall spoken information, others written information. No matter what style they prefer, the more you expose your audience to the information, the more likely they are to remember it.
  3. To replace your speaking notes – This doesn’t mean reading directly from your visual aid. However, a PowerPoint presentation or slide show will have keywords that you can use to structure your extemporaneous speech.
  4. To help indicate transitions – When you switch slides, for example, it reinforces the transitions between the two ideas indicated on the slide.

As you can see, used effectively, visual aids can add a lot to a speech. Some types of visual aids you could use in your speech include:

  1. Charts and graphs – There are a number of different types of charts and graphs that serve a variety of purposes such as pie charts, line graphs, bar charts, flow charts and organizational charts. Be sure to pick the one which best conveys the points you are trying to make.
  2. Slides and overheads – Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard for slide software today. Using PowerPoint, you can create highly sophisticated slides with audio, video, animations and much more. An old-fashioned overhead projector can still do the job, though.
  3. Flipcharts – Flipcharts should only be used when you need to record information or ideas during your speech (such as taking an audience survey). Using a flipchart as a pre-prepared visual aid will seem unprofessional in most situations.
  4. Audio and video – DVD’s and CD’s that relate to your topic will add interest and variety to your presentation. However, don’t use up too much of your speech time playing these. Remember, the audience is there to see you, not your media.
  5. Handouts – Handouts are a good idea in a couple of situations: 1) Your topic is too complex for the audience to easily understand from just your spoken words, and 2) If you need to ensure that the audience will remember the information long after your speech. Be careful when using handouts, however. They tend to be distrating to audience members if you don’t refer to them often. The audience also can get ahead of you by skipping to later sections of the handout.
  6. PropsĀ – Props fall into two categories: objects and models. Objects are the actual physical item that you are speaking about. Models are representations of the item that you are speaking about. No matter which type you use, props are good to refer to if they help clarify your messages and increase understanding.