Tips Using Visual Aids in Your Presentation

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Most presenters feel the need to rely on a crutch like notes or slides. Using visual aids may not be the best for your presentation, but if you determine that you are going to use them, I’ve developed some suggestions for using visual aids like Powerpoint and Keynote.

Tips for Using a Visual Aids

  • Stand adjacent to the screen – I attended an association luncheon where the presenter started on the right side of the screen (same side as the computer), but during the introduction, he took the stage and moved to stand smack dab in front of the projector. His visual aid slides were plastered all over him, and you couldn’t see his face anymore. Quite distracting, the contact person had to interrupt to tell the presenter to move to the side. “Oh,” and he moved to the left side of the screen. He then stopped presenting to look at the contact person in a perplexed manner and said, “Now I can’t flip the slides.” The contact person had to tell him to go to the other side of the screen.
  • Don’t pace in front or cross the projector & screen – At a local networking meeting, I was watching a presentation where the presenter was giving a short 10-minute presentation about business and wished referrals. The presenter was good at the oral delivery, but paced in front of the projector repeatedly for the duration of the speech. It was a distracting movement because each time he passed the projector, he interrupted its bright light, causing an attention grabbing light flicker in the room.
  • web_offer_banner_2losingDon’t read from the screen, if anything, use the reference monitor (a small screen near or below the stage that the presenter may use to keep track or the laptop with the PowerPoint) – The average adult reads at 300 words per minute, the average American adult speaks between 110-150 words per minute. This means that no matter how hard you try, people are going to get the information quicker by reading it from the screen than from you speaking the words, leaving the audience bored.
    I had a fellow member in a networking group that had a bad habit of filling the screen with bullet points and way too much text. He then would deliver the presentation and tell the listeners “you can read this for yourself” and he would walk out of the way. In other words, he invited the audience to not listen to him, and as I looked around the room, most people would hide the phone under the table and then you could tell that out of the corner of their eye they would see the screen change.
  • Change the slide on cue, not early or late. Never flip forward and then flip back. – TSkipping around happens all the time and the last time I saw this problem, it happened because the presenter didn’t prepare well enough in advance. He was trying to condense the material at the same time he was attempting to deliver the presentation and ended up having to flip through several slides back and forth to find the ones he wanted to use. After his time had run out, he rushed through the remaining slides very fast. That is when it became apparent that he was trying to use an existing presentation that had a much longer period of time. The slides were covered in words anyway, but I found myself frustrated for not getting a chance to look at all of the slides as he changed them after appearing for just milliseconds.
  • Invest remote and practice with it. (Carry extra batteries too.) – Remotes are invaluable; meaning that they are well worth the $40-100 to purchase them. When I bought my last computer, I made sure that it was compatible with a remote control so I would have one. I am overly cautious to ensure that my remote is with me at every presentation. (FYI – Macbook Airs do not have an infared sensor for the remote to work.)
    My husband had given a presentation at a conference out of town, and the remote control worked for the first half of the presentation, but the batteries died in the second half. He had to adapt quickly to the mishap. Although you are unable to prepare for mishappenings like this, it may be wise to take every precaution and change the batteries before you leave for the presentation site just to prevent this from happening to you. Batteries may be expensive, but they are cheap enough to avoid a similar issue.
  • Test the Powerpoint on the computer it will be displayed on. Fonts can vary between computers. – I had a friend that presented to a local association. He had taken quite a bit of time to format the slides and add animations. The day of the presentation, he planned on using another computer that was already there. He created the slides on his computer at the office, a PC, and gave the presentation on a Mac. He, of course, didn’t check the slides when he got it set up on the presentation computer, and as he went through the slides, he realized in the middle of the presentation that the formatting was not as he anticipated. The conversion between PC and Mac skewed the fonts and margins and made him look like an amateur instead of the expert status he was striving for doing the presentation.

Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being a good presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.


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