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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

My Revealing Research

Over the years while conducting workshops, the visual aids have changed. There's more technology involved today. But some things have not changed. I've spent a lot of time researching the art and science of using visual aids, and here are some of the discoveries I've made:

  • You must vary your visual aids. One of the problems with using slides from programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint (which we'll discuss more later) is that—especially for novice users—the slides all tend to look the same. Just because you're an expert in your particular subject, doesn't mean you're an expert at creating slides. If you show a series of lists, for instance, you'll lose the audience's attention after the second or third slide.

  • Talk about the information that's coming up before you actually show it. You lose 90 percent of the audience's attention if you put the visual up first and then start talking. You must orient the audience first; give them a chance to switch from their left brain (following your speech in a logical order) to their right brain function (taking in a picture or an image—even an aid with text only is still visual). The more directive you are, the better chance you have of being in control.

  • Don't read your slide after you present it; it's patronizing and it wastes time. They can read it themselves. Most people in the audience can read almost five times faster than you can speak. That means they'll be way ahead of you, and your reading will only be a distraction. If you think there's too much information on the slide for them to read, you're right. You should eliminate some of the points on the slide, not read it for them.

  • The less information you put on the slide—the more you have to say yourself—the more believable you are.

Remember that a visual aid is an aid to the presentation, not the presentation itself. A good presentation with visual aids is more effective than a good presentation without them, but remember that a visual aid is not a replacement for part of your speech. Done properly, visual aids can assist you in getting your message across. Done poorly, they can blur your message and lessen your credibility.


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