The Do’s & Don’ts of Using Visual Aids

Visuals must assist and support. It is not a tool you use to direct or control your speech. You alone direct and control your speech. Many speakers make a major mistake of using a Power Point to make their speech for them. It is a big mistake.

Visuals, audios, handouts, illustrations, whatever might assist or support your communication and message is used so that it never substitutes, replaces or upstages you the speaker. Use those visuals in accordance with the time, pace and rhythm of your presentation. It should never dictate your time, pace and rhythm.

Visuals do not nearly express the level of emotion that you can express directly to an audience, although they can assist in getting your audience to feel some emotion suitable to the message you convey.

A picture of a starving child in a poverty-stricken country, works well if you’re fundraising and that can generate emotion. The majority and impact of emotion comes from you and the visual is an assistance to that message much like music is to a soundtrack. I always like music on a video or music to coincide with a visual if need be. This takes a smart decision as sometimes music can be distractive to a message.

Another major point: it’s a visual aid.  There’s very minimal copy on a visual slide. The least copy on a visual slide the better. The visual itself should express and should illustrate the point you’re making. The audience is looking at the visual and listening to you, not listening to you and reading. We do not want an audience multi-tasking, it disperses them.

Remember, whatever distracts your communication to the audience is an enemy of your presentation. Any additional communication must support your message not distract from it or dilute its impact. I like dynamic visuals with action. I love visual (before and after) illustrations. They really drive the major point home. Certainly, statistics are fine. Pie charts are workable. Graphs are also effective as they add credibility to the points you make since they are visual representations of something.

Come up with an audio-visual checklist. In case of a failure you will have a prepared backup plan, even if additional batteries are needed. What if the lights go out? You will know what do to handle this.

My years performing and coaching other performers taught me a lesson in contingency planning that I’ve got two or three back-up microphones in case one goes out. I always have a wired microphone in case my wireless microphone’s battery goes dead. I have more batteries than I think I need.  Always have a backup plan. If you use the internet, and your internet goes down, you have a backup plan for that emergency, especially if you’re using the internet for visuals.

Another major key is that each audience attendee must see your visual aid. Are the displays fully visible from any seat in the audience. A visual preparation step prior to your speech can remedy that. Get a multitude of vantage points from many different audience seats to check this.

I’ve see speakers cross in-between their screen and the Power Point projector casting a distractive shadow and create huge distractions while they speak. Prepare your body placements when using visuals.

If you use a clicker or laser pointer make sure it is not distractive and not moving erratically but exactly where you want to direct your audience’s attention.

Remember, use of visual aids requires preparation. You will want to practice every step regarding visual use. Every movement is prepared for. Practice your visuals so that you get a sense of the audience’s viewpoint on your visuals.

Reminder: don’t ever let your visual aids dictate the pace, rhythm and sequence of your presentation. Use your visuals as a support to how you control your presentation and you will not only prevent audience distraction but you will increase the emotional impact on your audience

To Your Speaking Success,

Joe Yazbeck , Founder, Prestige Leadership Advisors

* Visit to download your free E Book on Public Speaking Essentials. Also, order the  one hour DVD on Coach Yazbeck’s 24 lessons training video titled “Dynamic Speaking Skills”