Ineffective visual aids—and there are a surprising number of them out there—all share mistakes that the good ones manage to avoid. Here are some tricks of the trade to help you make your visual aids and your presentation look professional:
Make all the visual aids consistent but NEVER boring. Titles should be the same size, and type styles should not vary wildly. All charts should use color in the same way: If you use blue bullets for emphasis in one chart, use them in all charts. Never use more than three colors in a visual aid.
Keep the visual aid out of sight until you are ready to use it. You want it to support you, not beat you to the punch line.
Always talk to the audience, not to the visual aid. Don't let the visual aid become a security blanket; powerful speakers use powerful visual aids, but they also maintain eye contact with the audience.
Stand to the side of what you're showing; not in front of it.
Don't forget to stage the visual aid: Consider the room size, where the audience will be, the easel, power cord, lights, and so on. Clear away visual aids used by other presenters so that you can start fresh. Make sure your visual aids are high enough for people in the back rows to see. If you don't have a stand or an easel, hold the visual aid up yourself, but don't block your face. When you're finished, put all the visual aids aside; don't let them clutter the platform when you give your concluding remarks.
Practice using your visual aids as you practice your whole talk. It's a mistake to practice your speech first and add the visual aids later. Use them as you develop your talk and each time you practice. Make sure they work—and work for you.