Use Aids Only to Support Your Message
Okay, so what are the advantages of visual aids? You may recall that earlier in this book it was shown that the impression made by the audio-visual aids component of a presentation was identified as representing 15% of the overall impact. This figure may strike you as low - and it is. The main reason for this is that for the majority of the time the audience is looking at you - the presenter. Audio-visual aids can take many forms and whatever type and mix you decide to use, it is important that their role is carefully planned. They are an aid to understanding but should never be used as a substitute for the presenters input. A presentation should consist of a speaker backed by visual aids and not vice-versa. As aids to the presentation it is best practice to incorporate them once the content planning phase is complete. Design your messages first, then review your cue cards and decide where audio-visual aids can be used to add clarity. Remember the word visual; audiences like to see models, diagrams, charts, pictures and so on. However text is not popular, so try to keep the written word off your visual aids.
How to Use Audio-Visual Aids
Audio-visual aids can be used in any of the following ways:
To reinforce stated facts
To aid the understanding of ideas
To clarify relationships or physical layouts
To introduce the audience to a new topic area
Useful guidelines to consider when designing visual aids include:
1. Use graphs to highlight a comparison.
2. Use line charts to highlight a trend.
3. Keep the visual device clear – avoid unnecessary clutter.
4. Use meaningful titles to avoid ambiguity.
5. Use colors carefully – thy must be clear under all lighting conditions
Commonly Used Audio-Visual Aids
The following audio-visual aids are all commonly used to enhance presentations:Handouts, flipcharts, whiteboards, slide shows, projectors, illustrations, computer graphics, audio tapes, videos, multimedia, physical objects, 3D models. Audio-visual aids have varying degrees of complexity and more than one type can be combined to create a sophisticated presentation. However, this may create a distance between the presenter and audience - who may be left with an overriding impression of a very fancy show but who may have missed your message.
Generally speaking the greater the complexity of the audio-visual aid the more time and effort it will take to prepare. Therefore a variety of factors will need to considered - for example how large is the audience, how many times will the presentation be staged, how experienced are you in preparing this form of aid and do you have access to colleagues or external agencies to help you with the preparatory work? Study your cue card presentation plan, devise a wish list of the optimum audio-visual aids you would like to incorporate and then by considering the practicalities decide what aids you will include.
Advantages of Different Visual Aids
You should be aware of the main advantages and potential pitfalls of the various forms of visual aid available.
Advantages - Simple, very easy to use, no audibility/visibility problems, can depict lots of information, lasting reference, inexpensive.
Disadvantages - Can be a distraction, low impact, don't enhance actual presentation.
Flipcharts & Whiteboards
Advantages - Simple, easy to use, can be pre-prepared, can be annotated via discussion, inexpensive.
Disadvantages - Visibility can be a problem, low impact, takes time to annotate, easily damaged.
Advantages – very flexible, use as a whiteboard, a projection surface for PC presentations, interactive flipchart
Disadvantages – not very portable, top-of-the-range models still very expensive.
Advantages - Professional, good at getting attention, retains interest, can have high impact.
Disadvantages - Requires power supply, expensive to produce, requires set-up and practice, can be noisy, requires low ambient light, prone to technical failures, considered low-tech.
OHP – Overhead Projectors
Advantages - Very common equipment, easy to use, easy to interact with, can be prepared quickly, transparencies can be stored.
Disadvantages - Requires power supply, can be noisy, can absorb the presenter, light can distract, considered low-tech.
PC/Computer based presentations
Advantages – professional, flexible and impactful, most popular method of presentation, equipment widespread and increasingly affordable.
Disadvantages – poorly produced presentations can have detrimental impact. Preparation and set-up time required if using third-party equipment, compatibility issues.
Advantages - Very effective in specialist role, inexpensive broadcast equipment.
Disadvantages - May need specialist recording skills, can be time consuming, only short duration use.
Advantages - Very high impact, common broadcast equipment.
Disadvantages - May need specialist production skills, very time consuming, very expensive, may compete with presenter.
Advantages – combine the use of modern digital aids to create a powerful and impactful presentation, can be easy to update.
Disadvantages – more things to go wrong or fail if there is a power-cut, can be expensive if video production included.
Advantages - Very high impact, good attention getter, makes a concept tangible.
Disadvantages - Expensive to produce and transport, may distract audience.
Using Visual Aids
How to use Projected Presentations
The PC and LCD/DLP projector have become the most common visual aid to support presentations. They enable effective interaction with the audience; switch on the projector and all eyes will move to the projected image. Professionally installed celing mounted projectors enable a laptop PC to be operated from a lecturn to the side of the presentation screen, keeping the area between the audience and the projected display clear.
The PC based projected presentation has virtually forced the Slide presentation and OHP presentation into obsolescence.
The following guidelines apply equally to the slickest PC presentation, an “old-school” OHP presentation or even a 35mm transparency slide show.
Turn it off when you have covered an area of your presentation so that all eyes (and ears) return to you the presenter. The impact of this can be greatly enhanced if you have some control over the room lighting. Either through the use of a remote control or an assistant, so that the sequence of actions you should adopt would be: turn off the light, turn on the projector, turn off the projector, turn on the light.
A common mistake is to leave the projector on throughout the presentation. If you do this you will be displaying either irrelevant information or a blank white panel; both of which are very distracting.
Another pitfall to avoid is overuse.
Putting more information on screen than can be easily absorbed at a glance will have a negative impact on what you are saying, particularly if it is too small to read for those at the back of your audience.
Before your audience arrives, check that the information you are projecting can be easily read by those at the back.
With PC based presentations that have been created in software like Microsoft’s PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress, it is a good idea to print a handout based on your presentation content, to provide to your audience at the end of your presentation. If you tell them that you will be doing this at the beginning of the presentation, this will avoid lapses of concentration as audience members scrabble to make notes of key points you make.
Using Slides Effectively
Although increasingly rare, a slide show still delivers a professional, easy to use and colorful presentation. However they do take a significant amount of planning and creation. The guidelines outlined for using projector presentations apply equally to the use of slides. Because of the lead-in time for creating effective slides they tend to be used best in support of formal presentations, to large groups - where there is adequate time to prepare.
As with in-situ LCD projectors, professional back or rear-projection equipment has the advantage of keeping the area between the presenter and audience clear of equipment and overcomes a number of the noise issues associated with conventional carousel projectors. Operation via remote control also adds to the professionalism - when compared to changing overhead transparencies. When using slides, try to position yourself so that you can easily check that the slide being shown is always the one you had planned.
Flipcharts and Whiteboards
Flipcharts and whiteboards are regarded as being somewhat unprofessional as a presentation medium, because they are usually hand-written with marker pens.
However, modern digital whiteboards support various modes of input and can print out content too, making them a viable and sophisticated visual support.
The main advantage of flipcharts and conventional whiteboards is their use as a tool in informal and impromptu meetings - particularly where interaction with the audience is important. Therefore they are commonly used in the context of design review meetings, quality control meetings, brain-storming sessions and so on.
When writing on flipcharts or whiteboards in real-time; check with the furthest away members of the audience that they find it legible.
Multimedia or Multiple Media?
The use of more than one aid to support a presentation is increasingly common - as messages and the way they are presented becomes ever more sophisticated.
These multiple media presentations lend themselves to creation and presentation via PC and LCD or DLP projectors and could include static graphical displays, video displays, animated Flash displays, synchronized audio and even a digital whiteboard.
The costs for multimedia equipment and the software required for its creation have fallen considerably, making them accessible for most.
On top of this you could be using a teleprompter/autocue system to make your oration appear naturally professional.
When you are designing a multiple media presentation you should be aware that it will multiply the potential dangers of errors, bad timing and equipment failures.
The best advice is to use multiple media only if you need to in order to deliver the message, but avoid it if you are able to deliver the message effectively without it.
If you are including multiple media then allow a greater time - both for preparation and rehearsal; and be ready to adapt your presentation should any of the equipment let you down on the day.
Tips for TelePrompTer/Autocue Presentations
The TelePrompTer/Autocue enables a scripted presentation to be delivered, usually to large audience, with some degree of naturalness. Even though the presenter doesn’t really maintain eye contact with members of the audience the impression of this can be given and this combined with relatively free head movement can facilitate a much more professional delivery than simply reading from a hard copy script. However, beware, the TelePrompTer/Autocue is not a simple device to master and when used badly the delivery can be embarrassingly bad.
The use of a TelePrompTer/Autocue will require considerable effort in the preparation phase of your presentation. For a start you will need a full rehearsal, preferably with the TelePrompTer/Autocue operator who will support you in the actual presentation. You should ensure that they are scrolling the text to match your pace, that they can quickly recognize occasions where you ad lib and pause the TelePrompTer/Autocue accordingly. Make sure that any points in your script that you want to use as cues are marked - as a visual aide-memoir. If the rehearsal highlights any words that you find difficult to read, change them.
Using a TelePrompTer/Autocue can result in a delivery that is dull and fails to engage the audience. It can be difficult to remember that you are there to communicate a message and not just read a script - particularly when you are presenting to a large audience that may be in the dark. There are several techniques that can help reduce this artificiality. Here are some tried and tested techniques for adding life to a TelePrompTer/Autocue presentation: Interaction is important in any presentation and even if you cannot see your audience; look at where their eyes should be, this will convince several people in that vicinity that you are actually making eye contact with them.Head movement adds to the energy of a presentation, so make sure that you keep your head moving as you read the script. Exaggerated movement may be necessary to destroy the impression that you are actually reading. When sharing examples or anecdotal stories break away from the script and rely on your own visualization to support you when you ad lib. Stay animated, use gestures and movement to show that you are not just a voice box attached to the TelePrompTer/Autocue.
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