Visual Aids

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Written By Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.

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

    visuals public 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.

Types of Visual Aids

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:

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.

Use pie charts to present figures, outcomes of surveys and percentages of achievements in their context.

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Use bars, timelines or charts to compare data, to demonstrate how something has developed over a period of time, to illustrate a series of steps or processes.

Use an organography to provide insight to the structure or the communication and command levels of and organization, process or program.

Use a flip chart if you do not have an electronic component to note or draw the main pointsargumentstheories or controversies of your visual aid speech topic for small audiences.

Note: All I wrote above about lettering and colors of overheads and slides go for visual aids like graphics and charts too.


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.

Use slides to illustrate for instance travel adventurescollectionshistorial sights, Power Point-presentations or the major points of your speech for small or larger groups.

  1. Do not forget to darken the room somewhat.
  2. Give your listeners enough time to see or read the slices, let’s say at least 25 to 30 seconds. Watch out for increasing the amount of data per slide. One bit at the time.


An overhead beamer projector is a very popular instrument to support visual aid speech topics. Use overheads to show for example how a machinebuilding or a plane has been built, to present a complex problem with its solution and benefits, and to illustrate processesprocedures, and steps in a sequence.

  1. Write large characters with a big marker pen.
  2. Number your transparencies.
  3. Keep the screen in full view of participants.
  4. Darken the room a little bit.
  5. Talk to the audience, not to the screen.
  6. Use a slidshow pointer.
  7. Do not offer too much data and info.
  8. Use colors and large lettering. Be careful with the color red. Sometimes it is hard to see!
  9. Write or print with dark ink.
  10. Keep enough white space between the information you show wit the beamer projector. They have to be easily seen and read.


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.

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.

Use DVD’s and videotapes to emphasize the main points of your speeches about for instance matchesmoviesjourneyshiking trails, or instructions.

  1. Tell them why you are playing the DVD or videotape.
  2. Tell your listeners what they are going to see.
  3. Keep the screen in full view.
  4. Darken the room somewhat to increase the feeling of seriousness of you presentation, and in order to give everyone a clear sight on the screen.

Use Audiotapes, CD’s and MP3’s to illustrate your speech about musicplayspoemsliterature, or perhaps even even famous speeches.

  1. Ensure everybody can hear everything! Ask them if they can hear all. If not, speak out louder.
  2. Use amplifying equipment that is powerful enough to reach all audience members in the back row.


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.

Distribute reportsinvitationsquizesquestionsgamesschedulessummaries after or before you explain the visual aid speech topic.

  1. Distribute them after your visual aid speech if you want them to act the way you proposed.
  2. Distribute the handouts before if you want to guide your audience through the content.


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.

Look at things around you. All things you can show live to your public are potential props and therefore candidate visual aid informative speech topics for a public speaking speech! Force yourself to think broad.

In many years I have seen lots of creative speeches about objects: someone who shows and explains a favorite paintingbookcameracoins collectionpetjewelry,fashion looksporting equipmenttoys etc, etc. Use your imagination, elaborate further on these ideas, such as researching some fashion jewelry online for getting the big picture. Some questions to develop visual aid speech topics with props:

  • Why you use it or has it been used for?
  • What is the story behind it?
  • When did you buy it? Why?
  • Who used it?
  • Can you demonstrate it step by step?
  • Can you teach the audience to do or to make it themselves during or after your speech?
  • Why do you want to talk about it?
  • Why do they have to hear your story?
  • How does it work?

If you choose for a very small or little visual aid speech topic, then move it closer to your listeners. Pass the prop round in class. Or if that is possible – think about images of expensive fashion jewelry online – show them with a beamer projector.

If it is very valuable, protect it! And ask their assistance to be very careful with it. Sure they will.


Use a poster to highlight the key points of your visuals aid speech topics. When you talk about a countrycity, a very expensive drawing, or your home or automobile etc. you can show a picture printed on a poster.

  1. Use thick, stiff paper for your posters.
  2. Hold them in a visual aid holder.

Five tips for your presentation

There is one major rule of thumb for a successful delivery of visual aid speech topics: A visual aid is not a purpose in itself. Integrate them smartly. They have to support the content of your informative speech.

Here are five basic tips for a successful delivery of your visual aid speech topics:

  1. Prepare your visual aid informative speech topics adequately.
  2. Practice several times aloud in front of family and friends.
  3. Check if your electronic component is running. Have a backup option in mind.
  4. Constantly check if your public can see and understand what you say and present. Every member of the audience must have the possibility to see your visual aids, hold them up as long as needed.
  5. Point to parts in your visual aid speech topics when you talk about the features.

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