Presentation Visual Aids

For many people, the presentation content is seen as the PowerPoint Slides.

But slide after slide of bullet points with lots of different transition effects is an absolute turn off for most audiences.

And this is only made worse when the presenter is just reading the bullet points on the slides or has their back to the audience much of the time!

Yet PowerPoint was never designed to be the presentation content itself – nor were its slides supposed to be the prompts for the presenter.

Whats the purpose of your visual aids?

Visual aids can be a great way of enhancing a presentation VISUALLY – when they are used sensibly and with a clear purpose.

You need to relate your visual aids to your audience and to the type of presentation you are designing. It needs to be suited to that audience.

For example, if its just a small intimate presentation you might just want to use a few sheets on a flipchart and forget about using your PC and PowerPoint. Especially if its an interactive presentation / discussion you’re having – as the audience can then partly own the flip chart with you and hence buy into overall process more easily.

Obviously if its a bigger more formal presentation then it’s probably expected that you’ll be using a software tool such as PowerPoint.  But remember it’s there to enhance your message – not just your prompts!

Designing visual aids

If you are designing slides using PowerPoint then you need to make sure that they are not just going to turn your audience off.

They should be there to enhance the message. Not to take over from you – the presenter – or your message.

Keep them as visual as possible.  Wherever possible use images, graphs, diagrams etc that will help your audience understand what you are talking about. Connect with it emotionally – if that’s what you are trying to achieve.  Images can be a great way of doing that.

Keep bullet points to a minimum – for example – key facts – but where possible add some visual metaphor on the same slide.

Few of us are professional designers – so if it’s a very important presentation – get some professional help if you have the budget available. But if you have to do it in-house keep things simple and dont end up spending up 80% of your time on the slides and 20% on the actual presentation content!

Managing your visual aids

It’s also important to think about how you are going to manage your visual aids.

  • Where to place them in the room.
  • How to work around them physically.
  • How visible will they be to the audience.

All these sorts of practical things are best thought through ahead of when you are actually standing there ready to present.

Pitfalls of visual aids

You’ve probably already heard the phrase “Death by PowerPoint”.  You might already have experienced this yourself – as part of an audience.

Use the KISS rule  (Keep It Simple and Succinct), as far as your use of visual aids is concerned.

  • Dont over do things.
  • Dont use too many different transition effects.
  • Dont use too small font sizes
  • Keep the number of slides to a minimum
  • Keep it as visual and text free as possible

In a future article we’ll be looking at more of the pitfalls that can happen with visual aids such as PowerPoint.  We’ll also look at how to avoid them – so they dont actually become a hindrance to you.

Alternatives to PowerPoint

There are other alternative software packages to MS PowerPoint out there.  We’ll have a look at some of these in a future article.

There are also other tools that you can use that might well be more suited to your presentation that a software tool and data projector.

Visual aids vs handouts

When do you use  handouts or just stick to your visual aids.

Again its thinking about your presentation, the type of audience and what do you want to achieve and whats going to be most suitable.

If you need to give the audience more information to support your message, then you may want to produce some handouts for the audience to take away.

Backups – when it all goes wrong

Finally you need to think about what happens if something goes wrong with the visual aids.  The data projector or pc stops working or your PPT version is not compatible with the PC in the room.

What’s your backup plan?  How do you cope with that?

One simple way is to make sure that you at least have some hard copies of your slides.  If you’re not sure if the presentation PC has the latest version of PowerPoint – try saving your file in the format used by an older version.  Alternatively, it might be worth taking your own laptop along… just in case.

Be prepared! Ask the organiser beforehand wherever possible.

To sum up

Visual aids – can be a great tool – but you need to use them appropriately so that they help you and they enhance your presentation.

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14 Responses to “Presentation Visual Aids”



  • Great piece on Presentation Visual Aids. I know its not totally relevant but one of the most effective communication skills strategies I’ve seen recently is always to listen closely to start with before you talk. for instance Find out more on the people you happen to be communicating with before deciding to talk too much.
    Lorri Zwicker



  • Karen Susman:

    Instead of or in addition to PowerPoint, use a prop to support your point. Since everyone is so used to PowerPoint, you can freshen up your presentation and your audience by using a prop. Be sure the prop really supports your point and big enough to be seen by everyone in the room.



  • nvn.sravya:

    thank u very much for giving this notes
    it is very helpful to every one..



  • jacqui martin:

    Love this article. Insightful presentation easy to follow



  • Mojela mohato:

    Thank you for helping me about the importance of using visual aids. Now i can be a good presenter.



  • Mark Bradshaw:

    I agree with a lot of what is here, some key points!

    Dont over do things. Yup!

    Dont use too many different transition effects. Don’t use ANY! Be subtle

    Dont use too small font sizes Glad you didn’t try to quantify that, be BOLD!

    Keep the number of slides to a minimum – Sort of, the minimum necessary to engage – don’t cut slides to get to a magic number, but the slides should really be secondary, and support, the message.

    Keep it as visual and text free as possible – 100%! Craig Taylor has blogged and presented on this tirelessly, move beyond bullet points! Do they really need to see facts & figures? Will they remember them? Shouldn’t we make the point on-slide & support it with facts elsewhere?

    Look at the work of Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte and Takahashi and borrow from them. Attend a few PechaKucha or Ignite events to see PowerPoint pushed in a different direction.

    On the backup issue how about uploading to Slideshare and having a version in Prezi? I also convert to Keynote and have a copy on my iPhone and iPad. I have never had an occasion when ALL tech fails. Always time for a first though eh!
    Thanks for the article and site, very useful.
    @MeMarkyB



  • elizzz:

    Keep up the great work of providing us with useful information.



  • bharat patil:

    thanks for detail information of visual presentation. my s.y.b.a subject english is project (visual presentation) help for your notes



  • zeeshan ue:

    its great and complete introduction of visual aids.i like that points very much.and note that



  • sajid zaman kohat:

    it is very essential to use the visual aids.

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