There’s an old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Life would indeed be difficult without paintings, photographs, diagrams, charts, drawings, and graphic symbols. These are some of the reasons why SHOWING is such an important form of communication.

  • Most people understand things better when they have seen how they work.
  • Involved, complex ideas can be presented clearly and quickly using visual aids.
  • People retain information longer when it is presented to them visually.
  • Visuals can be used to communicate to a wide range of people with differing backgrounds.
  • Visuals are useful when trying to condense information into a short time period.

Visual aids–used imaginatively and appropriately–will help your audience remember more.
Consider the following:

  • People think in terms of images, not words, so visuals help them retain and recall technical information.
  • Visuals attract and hold the attention of observers.
  • Visuals simplify technical information.
  • Visuals may be useful in presenting technical information to a nontechnical audience.

Questions to Ask about Visual Aids:

  • Is my objective clear?
  • What are my key points? Do they deserve the emphasis that a visual aid gives?
  • What visual aid or aids have I planned to use?
  • Will the visual aid clarify my spoken words? Will it support my spoken words rather than replace them?
  • Is each visual aid simple, orderly and consistent? Is it free from incompatible and complicating ideas, symbols, art techniques and typefaces? Can my audience quickly and easily grasp what they see or must it be read to them? Avoid making it a reading session.
  • Is it symbolic or pictorial? Which treatment is best for my subject? Which treatment is best from the standpoint of my audience
  • Is my visual direct and to the point? Is the art functional or ornate? Is it really one visual aid or several? If my subject is complex, will it be presented in easily comprehensible units? (Drop-ons or overlays) Was my artwork designed just for this presentation
  • Is my visual aid realistic? Does it give all the pertinent facts? Have the facts been distorted?
  • Is my visual aid as effective as it can be made? Have I used all the available techniques to make it so?
  • Did I put enough effort into the planning of the visual aid? Have I sought criticism from others?
  • Will it achieve my objectives? Will my audience understand, appreciate and believe it? If my presentation calls for some action by the audience, will it stimulate them to do so willingly?
  • Have I overlooked anything in the use of the visual aid? Have I tested the visual aid? Have I planned one or more rehearsals; if not, why? Will my visual aid material is visible to the entire audience?

Visual Aid Checklist

  • Does the projector work properly? Bulb, lenses, change mechanism, fan.
  • Does each slide present a simple, clear message?
  • Are the slides arranged and numbered consistently and consecutively?
  • Are the slides clean and mounted properly?
  • Will the audience be able to see slide details in the location I plan to use?
  • Does the slide tray have a title slide at the beginning and a blind slide at the end to
  • avoid blinding the audience with light?

Power Point or Transparencies

  • Is the lettering large enough to be seen by the audience?
  • Is the projector placed so that the audience has an unobstructed view?
  • Is the projector and slide color scheme adequate for the lighting of the room being used?
  • Does the projected image fit the screen?
  • Are my slides in proper order?
  • Does each present a clear message?
  • Is the projector compatible with the computer being used?

Video Tape

  • Do you have the correct machine for the tape you plan to show (Beta or VHS)?
  • Is the equipment in proper working order?
  • Is the tape set to start at the proper place and does it “track” properly?
  • Will the WHOLE audience be able to see the presentation?
  • Is the sound level on the monitor(s) set at the proper level?

The Location

  • Does the room match the size of the audience?
  • Is the location accessible to the physically disabled?
  • Can the lighting be controlled for showing slides and transparencies? If so, is a reading light available?
  • Is the location equipped with a projector cart or table?
  • Are electrical outlets conveniently located–do I need extension cords?
  • Is the room equipped with an adequate screen?
  • If using video equipment, can monitors be set up at appropriate locations?
  • Does the room have a speakers table or podium?
  • Will the location be available prior to your meeting so you can set up and test your equipment?
  • Is the room equipped with a newsprint easel or chalkboard?
  • Does the room have chairs and tables or desks? Can they be rearranged if needed?
  • Is the main entrance separated from the speaker area so that late arrivals will not disrupt your presentation?

Always check out the room and equipment in advance to see that it works properly! Never assume that it will work without trying it first. As a general rule, the more complicated the technology for an oral presentation, the more likely it will fail

Checklist for Tables and Charts

  • Be ruthless with numbers: use the fewest possible that will still convey the point of the visual. Do not exceed twenty numbers or a single slide.
  • Combine numbers into larger sums wherever possible; eliminate any number that does not contribute significantly to your message.
  • Consider using a chart (pie, bar, etc.) for presenting some information, especially if you want to draw comparisons between two or more items.
  • When preparing charts use colors or patterns with a lot of contrast.
  • Split information into two or three smaller tables rather than using one huge table.
  • Use no more than three or four columns per table.
  • Have a short, yet descriptive, title that states the point of the visual. Put it at the top. Include a date at the bottom.
  • Label columns clearly and at the top. Show the units (dollars or tons, for example).
  • On the left, label the statistics being compared.
  • Avoid footnotes and symbols that may not be generally understood by your audience.
  • Use light horizontal lines if they improve readability.
  • Be consistent. Do not mix pounds and tons, years and months, gross and net.
  • Avoid decimal points whenever possible. Use round numbers for tables and graphs.
  • Highlight the most important numbers with boxes, underlining, or color.
  • If arithmetic operations are not obvious, state them: (less), or “Less Depreciation Expense.”
  • Eliminate zeros by expressing numbers in thousands or millions, if possible.
  • Show negative numbers in parentheses, not with minus signs.
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