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Using Visual Aids
Using Visual Aids 7
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Using Visual Aids
Ki nds of Visual Aids
Mu ltimedia Presentations
T he Speaker
G uidelines for Preparing Visual Aids
Prepare Visual Aids in Advance
K eep Visual Aids Simple
Mak e Sure Visual Aids Are Large Enough
Use Fonts That Are Easy to Read
Use a Limited Number of Fonts
Us e Color Effectively
G uidelines for Presenting Visual Aids
Avoid Using the Chalkboard
Display Visual Aids Where Listeners Can See Them
A void Passing Visual Aids Among the Audience
Display Visual Aids Only While Discussing Them
Talk to Your Audience, Not to Your Visual Aid
Explain Visual Aids Clearly and Concisely
P ractice with Your Visual Aids
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iagnosed with high blood pressure when he was in high school, Devin Marshall
decided to give his persuasive speech on the excessive amount of salt in the American
Ddiet. On the day of his speech, he brought to class a large box, which he set on the
table next to him. This immediately aroused the curiosity of his audience. Devin took from
the box a container of Morton Salt, a measuring cup, and two plates. Then he began his
First, he explained the monthly salt consumption recommended by the American
Medical Association. To illustrate, he measured a cup of salt onto one plate and showed it
to the audience. Next, he gave statistics about how much salt the average American con-
sumes in a month. Again, as he spoke, he measured. When he was finished measuring, the
second plate had three cups, almost two pounds of salt.
Finally, Devin said, “Now let’s multiply that amount by 12 and see how much salt
we eat over the course of a year.” And he began taking out of the box one container
of Morton Salt after another, until he had piled up a pyramid of 14 containers, or nearly
24 pounds of salt
As the old saying tells us, one picture is worth a thousand words. Can you
picture 2 pounds of salt? Or 24 pounds of salt? You could if you had watched
Devin measure out the salt and stack up the Morton containers. This dramatic
visual evidence brought home Devin’s point more forcefully than would have
been possible with words alone.
People find a speaker’s message more interesting, grasp it more easily, and
retain it longer when it is presented visually as well as verbally. I n fact, when
used properly, visual aids can enhance almost every a spect of a speech. One
study showed that an average speaker who uses visual aids will come across as
better prepared, more credible, and more professional than a dynamic speaker
who does not use visual aids. According to the same study, visual aids can
increase the persuasiveness of a speech by more than 40 percent. Visual aids
can even help you combat stage fright. They heighten audience interest, shift
attention away from the speaker, and give the speaker greater confidence in
the presentation as a whole.
For all these reasons, you will find visual aids of great value in your speeches.
In this chapter, we will concentrate primarily on visual aids suitable for class-
room speeches, but the same principles apply in all circumstances. For speeches
outside the classroom—in business or community situations, for instance—you
should have no difficulty if you follow the suggestions given here.
Let us look first at the kinds of visual aids you are most likely to use, then
at guidelines for preparing visual aids, and finally at guidelines for using
visual aids. Because PowerPoint is such an important way of presenting visual
aids today, we focus on that subject in the appendix that follows this chapter
Kinds of Visual Aids
Bringing the object of your speech to class can be an excellent way to clarify
your ideas and give them dramatic impact. If your specific purpose is “To
inform my audience how to choose the right ski equipment,” why not bring
the equipment to class to show your listeners? Or suppose you want to inform
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Photographs make excellent
visual aids if they are large
enough to be seen easily.
Check Video Clip 13.2 in the
online Media Library for this
chapter to see how one
speaker used this photograph
of the famous Incan ruins at
your classmates about the Peruvian art of doll making. You could bring several
dolls to class and explain how they were made.
Some objects, however, cannot be used effectively in classroom speeches.
Some are too big. Others are too small to be seen clearly. Still others may not
be available to you. If you were speaking about a rare suit of armor in a local
museum, you could, theoretically, transport it to class, but it is most unlikely
that the museum would let you borrow it. You would have to look for another
kind of visual aid.
If the item you want to discuss is too large, too small, or unavailable, you may model
be able to work with a model. One student, a criminal science major, used a An object, usually built to
model of a human skull to show how forensic scientists use bone fragments to scale, that represents
reconstruct crime injuries. Another used a scaled-down model of a hang glider another object in detail.
to illustrate the equipment and techniques of hang gliding.
No matter what kind of model (or object) you use, make sure the audience
can see it and that you explain it clearly. For an example, check Video Clip 13.1
in the online Media Library for this chapter. The speaker is talking about CPR,
which he demonstrates on a training dummy he borrowed from the local Red
In the absence of an object or a model, you may be able to use photographs.
They will not work effectively, however, unless they are large enough for the connectlucas.com
View an excerpt from “CPR”
audience to view without straining. Normal-size photos are too small to be seen
in the online Media Library
clearly without being passed around—which only diverts the audience from
for this chapter (Video
what you are saying. The same is true of photographs in books.
How can you get large-scale photos for a speech? One student used art
posters to illustrate her points about the painter Frida Kahlo. Another speaker
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An extremely valuable resource is the Presenters University visual aids Web site
(www.presentersuniversity.com/visuals.php). Sponsored by InFocus Corporation,
this site provides information about all kinds of visual aids and how to use them
Do you want to learn more about PowerPoint and other multimedia presentations?
Check Presentation Tips (www.garrreynolds.com/Presentation/). Maintained by
Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, this site contains a wealth of helpful tips,
as well as updates on the latest technological developments.
used 18 3 24 enlargements from a color copier to show the markings of various
species of saltwater tropical fish. Another option is to take your photographs
to a copy service and have them converted to transparencies that can be
shown with an overhead projector. The cost is minimal, and the results can be
Finally, PowerPoint and other multimedia programs are excellent vehicles
for incorporating photographs into a speech. You can use your own photo-
graphs or ones you have downloaded from the Web, and you can easily adjust
the size and placement of the photos for maximum clarity and impact. Notice,
for example, the way the speaker in Video Clip 13.2 in the online Media
Library for this chapter used PowerPoint to present a photograph of the famous
Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. No other method of showing the photograph
would have worked as well.
View an excerpt from
“Machu Picchu: City of the
Gods” in the online Media
Library for this chapter DRAWINGS
(Video Clip 13.2).
Diagrams, sketches, and other kinds of drawings are inexpensive to make and
can be designed to illustrate your points exactly. This more than compensates
for what they may lack in realism.
For example, Figure 13.1 (page 271) is a drawing used by a student in a speech
about Navajo sandpainting. The student wanted to show his audience what sand-
painting looks like and to explain its symbolism and religious significance.
Figure 13.2 (page 271) shows a drawing used in a speech about the kinds
of problems faced by people who have dyslexia. It allowed the speaker to trans-
late complex ideas into visual terms the audience could grasp immediately.
graph Audiences often have trouble grasping a complex series of numbers. You can
A visual aid used to show ease their difficulty by using graphs to show statistical trends and patterns.
statistical trends and patterns. The most common type is the line graph. Figure 13.3 (page 272) shows such
a graph, used in a speech about the American movie industry. If you look at
Video Clip 13.3 in the online Media Library for this chapter, you can see how
the speaker explained the graph. He said:
A s you can see from this graph based on figures in Newsweek ma gazine, the video
revolution has had a profound impact on the American movie industry. From 1980 to
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• FIGURE 13.1
2005, the percent of movie revenues generated by box office receipts fell dramatically—
from 61 percent to 21 percent. At the same time, the percent of movie industry revenues
generated by DVD, VHS, and television more than doubled—from 39 percent in 1981 to
79 percent in 2005.
The pie graph is best suited for illustrating simple distribution patterns.
Figure 13.4 (page 272) shows how one speaker used a pie graph to help listeners
visualize changes in marital status among working women in the past century.
The graph on the left shows the percentages of working women who were
View the presentation of this
single, married, and widowed or divorced in 1900. The graph on the right
graph in “American Movies:
shows percentages for the same groups in 2008.
From the Studio System to
Because a pie graph is used to dramatize relationships among the parts of
the Video Age” in the online
a whole, you should keep the number of different segments in the graph as
Media Library for this chapter
small as possible. A pie graph should ideally have from two to five segments;
(Video Clip 13.3).
under no circumstances should it have more than eight.
• FIGURE 13.2
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Movie industry revenues
TV & home video
A graph that uses one or
more lines to show changes
in statistics over time
1980 1990 2000 2005
• FIGURE 13.3
The bar graph is a particularly good way to show comparisons among two
or more items. It also has the advantage of being easy to understand, even by
people who have no background in reading graphs. Figure 13.5 (page 273) is
an example of a bar graph from a speech titled “The Politics of Race in America.”
It shows visually the relative standing of whites and blacks with respect to
median household income, infant mortality, unemployment, and college edu-
cation. By using a bar graph, the speaker made her points much more vividly
than if she had just cited the numbers orally.
Charts are particularly useful for summarizing large blocks of information. One
student, in a speech titled “The United States: A Nation of Immigrants,” used a
chart to show the leading regions of the world for U.S. immigrants ( Figure 13.6 ,
Women in the Work Force
A graph that highlights
segments of a circle to
show simple distribution
• FIGURE 13.4
272 CHAPTER 13 USING VISUAL AIDS
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Median Household Income
Infant Mortality per 1,000 Births
A graph that uses vertical
or horizontal bars to show
comparisons among two or
• FIGURE 13.5
page 273). These are too many categories to be conveyed in a pie graph. By listing
them on a chart, the speaker made it easier for listeners to keep the information
straight. Look at Video Clip 13.4 in the online Media Library for this chapter
to see how the student presented the chart during her speech.
Charts are also valuable for showing the steps of a process. One speaker
used several charts in a speech about survival techniques in the wilderness,
including one outlining the steps in emergency treatment of snakebites.
Another speaker used charts to help her listeners keep track of the steps
involved in making cappuccino and other specialty coffee drinks.
The biggest mistake made by beginning speakers when using a chart is to
View the presentation of this
include too much information. As we will discuss later, visual aids should be
chart in “The United States:
clear, simple, and uncluttered. Lists on a chart should rarely exceed seven or
A Nation of Immigrants” in
eight items, with generous spacing between items. If you cannot fit everything
the online Media Library for
on a single chart, make a second one. this chapter (Video Clip 13.4).
Percent of U.S.
Region of Birth
Asia 36 percent
Mexico 14 percent
Europe 11 percent
A visual aid that summarizes
Caribbean 11 percent
a large block of information,
South America 10 percent
usually in list form.
Africa 9 percent
Central America 5 percent
Other 4 percent
• FIGURE 13.6
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Earlier in this chapter we mentioned the possibility of converting photographs
to transparencies, which can be shown with an overhead projector. You can
also use transparencies to present drawings, graphs, and charts. Transparencies
are inexpensive, easy to create, and produce a strong visual image.
transparency If you use transparencies, don’t try to write or draw on them while you are
A visual aid drawn, written, or speaking. Prepare them in advance and make sure any text is large enough to
printed on a sheet of clear be seen from the back of the room. A good rule is that all numbers and letters—
acetate and shown with an whether typed or handwritten—should be at least one-third inch high (about
overhead projector. four times as large as the print on this page).
In addition, check the overhead projector ahead of time to make sure it’s
working and that you know how to operate it. If possible, arrange to practice
with a projector when you rehearse the speech.
If you are talking about the impact caused by a low-speed automobile acci-
dent, what could be more effective than showing slow-motion video of crash
tests? Or suppose you are explaining the different kinds of roller coasters
found in amusement parks. Your best visual aid would be a video showing
those coasters in action. The detail, immediacy, and vividness of video are
hard to match. Now that it is readily available in digital formats—on DVDs,
peer-to-peer networks, and Web sites like YouTube—it’s easier than ever to
incorporate into a speech.
Despite its advantages, however, adding video to a speech can cause more
harm than good if it is not done carefully and expertly. First, make sure the clip
is not too long. While a 30-second video can illustrate your ideas in a memo-
rable way, anything much longer will distract attention from the speech itself.
Second, make sure the video is cued to start exactly where you want it. Third, if
necessary, edit the video to the precise length you need so it will blend smoothly
into your speech. Fourth, beware of low-resolution video. This is particularly
important in the case of YouTube clips, which may look fine on a computer but
are blurry and distorted when projected on a large screen or monitor.
multimedia presentation Multimedia presentations allow you to integrate a variety of visual aids—
A speech that combines several including charts, graphs, photographs, and video—in the same talk. Depend-
kinds of visual and/or audio aids ing on the technological resources at your school, you may be able to give
in the same talk. multimedia presentations in your speech class. If so, it will provide training for
speeches outside the classroom—especially in business settings, where multi-
media presentations are made every day.
Microsoft PowerPoint is far and away the most widely used program for
multimedia presentations. In the appendix that follows this chapter, you will
find a discussion of how to use PowerPoint to best effect in your speeches. If you
go to the online Speech Tools for this chapter at connectlucas.com, you will also
find detailed, how-to guides for PowerPoint 2003 and PowerPoint 2007.
Sometimes you can use your own body as a visual aid—by illustrating how a
conductor directs an orchestra, by revealing the secrets behind magic tricks, by
showing how to perform sign language, and so forth. In addition to clarifying
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Sometimes a speaker can
use her or his body as a visual
aid, as in this speech demon-
strating yoga postures. Such
a speech requires careful
practice to coordinate the
speaker’s actions and words
while maintaining eye
contact with the audience.
a speaker’s ideas, doing some kind of demonstration helps keep the audience
involved. It also can reduce a speaker’s nervousness by providing an outlet for
Doing a demonstration well requires special practice to coordinate your
actions with your words and to control the timing of your speech. You can see
an excellent example on Video Clip 13.5 in the online Media Library for this connectlucas.com
View an excerpt from “Yoga:
chapter. The subject is yoga. After talking about the role of proper breathing in
Uniting Body, Mind, and
yoga, the speaker demonstrates three yoga poses. Notice how clearly she
Spirit” in the online Media
explains each pose, communicates directly with the audience, and maintains
Library for this chapter
eye contact throughout her demonstration.
(Video Clip 13.5).
Special care is required if you are demonstrating a process that takes
longer to complete than the time allotted for your speech. If you plan to
show a long process, you might borrow the techniques of television person-
alities such as Ming Tsai and Martha Stewart. They work through most of
the steps in making a perfect marinated chicken or holiday decoration, but
they have a second, finished chicken or decoration ready to show you at the
Guidelines for Preparing Visual Aids
Whether you are creating visual aids by hand or designing them on a com-
puter, there are six basic guidelines you should follow to make your aids clear
and visually appealing. These guidelines apply whether you are speaking in or
out of the classroom, at a business meeting or a political forum, to an audience
of 20 or of 200.
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Preparing Visual Aids
1. Have I prepared my visual aids well in advance?
2. Are my visual aids clear and easy to comprehend?
■ ■ 3. Does each visual aid contain only the information needed
to make my point?
4. Are my visual aids large enough to be seen clearly by the
5. Do the colors on my visual aids work well together?
This checklist is also available
6. Is there a clear contrast between the lettering and back-
in the online Study Tools for ■ ■
ground on my charts, graphs, and drawings?
7. Do I use line graphs, pie graphs, and bar graphs correctly
to show statistical trends and patterns?
8. Do I limit charts to no more than eight items?
9. Do I use fonts that are easy to read?
10. Do I use a limited number of fonts?
PREPARE VISUAL AIDS IN ADVANCE
No matter what visual aids you plan to use, prepare them well before your
speech is due. This has two advantages. First, it means you will have the time
and resources to devise creative, attractive aids. Second, it means you can use
them while practicing your speech. Visual aids are effective only when they
are integrated smoothly with the rest of the speech. If you lose your place,
drop your aids, or otherwise stumble around when presenting them, you will
distract your audience and shatter your concentration. You can avoid such
disasters by preparing your visual aids well in advance.
KEEP VISUAL AIDS SIMPLE
Visual aids should be simple, clear, and to the point. Limit each aid to a man-
ageable amount of information, and beware of the tendency to go overboard
when using programs such as PowerPoint. It is possible to create a graphic that
displays two charts, a photograph, and ten lines of text in five different type-
faces with 250 colors. But who would be able to read it?
The basic rule is to include in your visual aid only what you need to make
your point. If you look back at the aids presented earlier in this chapter, you
will see that all of them are clear and uncluttered. They contain enough infor-
mation to communicate the speaker’s point, but not so much as to confuse or
distract the audience.
MAKE SURE VISUAL AIDS ARE LARGE ENOUGH
A visual aid is useless if no one can see it. Keep in mind the size of the room in
which you will be speaking and make sure your aid is big enough to be seen
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easily by everyone. As you prepare the aid, check its visibility by moving to a
point as far away from it as your most distant listener will be sitting. If you
have trouble making out the words or drawings, your audience will too. By
making sure your visual aid is large enough, you will avoid having to introduce
it with the comment “I know some of you can’t see this, but . . .”
If you are creating your visual aid by computer, remember that regular-
size type (such as that in this book) is much too small for a visual aid—even
for one that is enlarged with PowerPoint or an overhead projector. Most
experts recommend printing all words and numbers in bold and using at
least 36-point type for titles, 24-point type for subtitles, and 18-point type
for other text.
What about using all capital letters? That might seem a great way to ensure
that your print is large enough to be read easily. But research has shown that
a long string of words in ALL CAPS is actually harder to read than is normal
text. Reserve ALL CAPS for titles or for individual words that require special
USE FONTS THAT ARE EASY TO READ
Not all fonts are suitable for visual aids. For the most part, you should avoid
decorative fonts such as those on the left in Figure 13.7 , below. They are hard
to read and can easily distract the attention of listeners. In contrast, the fonts
on the right in Figure 13.7 are less exciting, but they are clear and easy to read.
If you use fonts such as these, your visual aids will be audience-friendly.
USE A LIMITED NUMBER OF FONTS
Some variety of fonts in a visual aid is appealing, but too much can be font
distracting—as in the aid on the left in Figure 13.8 (page 278), which uses a A complete set of type of the
different font for each line. Most experts recommend using no more than two same design.
fonts in a single visual aid—one for the title or major headings, another for
subtitles or other text. Standard procedure is to use a block typeface for the
title and a rounder typeface for subtitles and text—as in the aid on the right
in Figure 13.8 .
Ineffective More Effective
• FIGURE 13.7
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Ineffective More Effective
MAJOR CLASSES OF WINE
• FIGURE 13.8
USE COLOR EFFECTIVELY
Color adds clout to a visual aid. When used effectively, it increases recognition
by 78 percent and comprehension by 73 percent. The key words, of course, are
“when used effectively.” Some colors do not work well together. Red and green
are a tough combination for anyone to read, and they look the same to people
who are color-blind. Many shades of blue and green are too close to each other
to be easily differentiated—as are orange and red, blue and purple.
It is also possible to have too many colors on a visual aid. In most circum-
stances, charts and graphs should be limited to a few colors that are used con-
sistently and solely for functional reasons. You can use either dark print on a
light background or light print on a dark background, but in either case make
sure there is enough contrast between the background and the text so listeners
can see everything clearly.
You can also use color to highlight key points in a visual aid. One student,
in a speech about noise pollution, used a chart to summarize the sound levels
of everyday noise and to indicate their potential danger for hearing loss ( Fig-
ure 13.9 , below). Notice how he put sounds that are definitely harmful to
hearing in red, sounds that may cause hearing loss in blue, and sounds that
are loud but safe in green. These colors reinforced the speaker’s ideas and
made his chart easier to read.
IMPACT ON DECIBEL TYPE OF
HEARING LEVEL NOISE
Harmful 140 Firecracker
to 130 Jackhammer
hearing 120 Jet engine
Risk 110 Rock concert
hearing 100 Chain saw
loss 90 Motorcycle
Loud 80 Alarm clock
but 70 Busy traffic
safe 60 Air conditioner
• FIGURE 13.9
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Guidelines for Presenting Visual Aids
No matter how well designed your visual aids may be, they will be of little
value unless you display them properly, discuss them clearly, and integrate
them effectively with the rest of your presentation. Here are seven guidelines
that will help you get the maximum impact out of your visual aids.
AVOID USING THE CHALKBOARD
At first thought, using the chalkboard or whiteboard in your classroom to pre-
sent visual aids seems like a splendid idea. Usually, however, it is not. You have
too much to do during a speech to worry about drawing or writing legibly on
the board. Even if your visual aid is put on the board ahead of time, it will not
be as vivid or as neat as one composed on poster board, a transparency, or a
DISPLAY VISUAL AIDS WHERE LISTENERS CAN SEE THEM
Check the speech room ahead of time to decide exactly where you will display
your visual aids. If you are using poster board, make sure it is sturdy enough to
be displayed without curling up or falling over. Another choice is foamcore, a
thin sheet of styrofoam with graphics-quality paper on both sides.
If you are displaying an object or a model, be sure to place it where it can
be seen easily by everyone in the room. If necessary, hold up the object or
model while you are discussing it.
Once you have set the aid in the best location, don’t undo all your prepara-
tion by standing where you block the audience’s view of the aid. Stand to one
side of the aid, and point with the arm nearest it. If possible, use a pencil, a
ruler, or some other pointer. This will allow you to stand farther away from the
visual aid, thereby reducing the likelihood that you will obstruct the view.
AVOID PASSING VISUAL AIDS AMONG THE AUDIENCE
Once visual aids get into the hands of your listeners, you are in trouble. At least
three people will be paying more attention to the aid than to you—the person
who has just had it, the person who has it now, and the person waiting to get
it next. By the time the visual aid moves on, all three may have lost track of
what you are saying.
Nor do you solve this problem by preparing a handout for every member of
the audience. They are likely to spend a good part of the speech looking over
the handout at their own pace, rather than listening to you. Although handouts
can be valuable, they usually just create competition for beginning speakers.
Every once in a while, of course, you will want listeners to have copies of
some material to take home. When such a situation arises, keep the copies until
after you’ve finished talking and distribute them at the end. Keeping control of
your visual aids is essential to keeping control of your speech.
DISPLAY VISUAL AIDS ONLY WHILE DISCUSSING THEM
Just as circulating visual aids distracts attention, so does displaying them
throughout a speech. If you are using an object or a model, keep it out of sight
until you are ready to discuss it. When you finish your discussion, place the
object or model back out of sight.
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Presenting Visual Aids
1. Can I present my visual aids without writing or drawing
on the chalkboard?
2. Have I checked the speech room to decide where I can
display my visual aids most effectively?
3. Have I practiced presenting my visual aids so they will be
clearly visible to everyone in the audience?
4. Have I practiced setting up and taking down my visual
aids so I can do both smoothly during the speech?
This checklist is also available
5. Have I practiced keeping eye contact with my audience
in the online Study Tools for
while presenting my visual aids?
6. Have I practiced explaining my visual aids clearly and
concisely in terms my audience will understand?
7. If I am using handouts, have I planned to distribute them
after the speech rather than during it?
8. Have I double checked all equipment to make sure it
9. Have I rehearsed my speech with the equipment I will use
during the final presentation?
The same is true of charts, graphs, drawings, or photographs prepared on
poster board. If you are using an easel, put a blank sheet of poster board in
front of the sheet with the visual aid. When the time comes, remove the blank
sheet to show the aid. When you are finished with the aid, remove it from the
easel or cover it again.
If you are using a multimedia program, you can achieve the same effect by
projecting a blank slide when you are not discussing a visual aid. Regardless of
the kind of aid employed or the technology used to present it, the principle
remains the same: Display the aid only while you are discussing it.
TALK TO YOUR AUDIENCE, NOT TO YOUR VISUAL AID
When explaining a visual aid, it is easy to break eye contact with your audience
and speak to the aid. Of course, your listeners are looking primarily at the aid,
and you will need to glance at it periodically as you talk. But if you keep your
eyes fixed on the visual aid, you may lose your audience. By keeping eye con-
tact with your listeners, you will also pick up feedback about how the visual aid
and your explanation of it are coming across.
EXPLAIN VISUAL AIDS CLEARLY AND CONCISELY
Visual aids don’t explain themselves. Like statistics, they need to be translated
and related to the audience. For example, Figure 13.10 (page 281) is an excel-
lent visual aid, but do you know what it represents? You may if you suffer from
migraine headaches, since it shows the different regions of pain experienced
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CLUSTER C L U S T E R
• FIGURE 13.10
during a cluster migraine attack. But even then, the full meaning of the draw-
ing may not be clear until it is explained to you.
A visual aid can be of enormous benefit—but only if the viewer knows
what to look for and why. Unfortunately, beginning speakers often rush over
their visual aids without explaining them clearly and concisely. Be sure to
adapt your visual aids to the audience. Don’t just say, “As you can see . . .” and
then pass quickly over the aid. Tell listeners what the aid means. Describe its
major features. Spell out the meaning of charts and graphs. Interpret statistics
and percentages. Remember, a visual aid is only as useful as the explanation
that goes with it.
As you can see from Video Clip 13.6 in the online Media Library for this
chapter, the speaker who used the diagram of the migraine headache discussed
above did an excellent job explaining how each color on the drawing corre-
sponds with an area of intense pain suffered during a cluster migraine. Having
used the drawing during her practice sessions, she was able to integrate it into
View an excerpt from “The
the speech smoothly and skillfully—and to maintain eye contact with her lis-
Agony of Migraines” in the
teners throughout her discussion of it. You should strive to do the same when
online Media Library for this
you present visual aids in your speeches. chapter (Video Clip 13.6).
PRACTICE WITH YOUR VISUAL AIDS
This chapter has mentioned several times the need to practice with visual aids,
but the point bears repeating. You do not want to suffer through an experience
like the one that follows:
S everal years ago, a young engineer came up with a cutting-edge design for a new
machine. He then needed to explain the machine to his supervisors and convince them it
was a worthwhile investment. He was told to plan his speech carefully, to prepare slides
and other visual aids, and to practice in the conference room, using its complex lectern and
Unfortunately, although he had done a brilliant job designing the machine, the engineer
failed to plan his presentation with similar care. His worst mistake was not practicing with the
equipment he now needed to operate. When he dimmed the lights, he couldn’t read his text.
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When the first slide came on, it wasn’t his but belonged to a previous speaker. When he
reached the first correct slide, the type was too small for anyone past the first row to see.
Unable to turn on the light-arrow indicator to point out the line he was talking about,
he walked away from the lectern to point things out directly on the screen. But he left the
microphone behind, so people in the back rows could neither see nor hear.
When a slide of his design appeared, he was too close to see the critical parts. Since
he couldn’t check his text because of the darkness, he lost track of what he was supposed
to say. Reaching for a steel-tipped pointer because he couldn’t operate the optical one, he
managed to punch a hole through the screen.
In desperation, he abandoned his slides, turned up the lights, and raced through the
rest of his speech so fast that he was almost unintelligible. Finally, in embarrassment for
both himself and the audience, he sat down.
This sounds like a routine from Saturday Night Live, but it is a true story.
You can avoid such a series of mishaps if you practice with the visual aids you
have chosen. Rehearse with your equipment to be sure you can present your
aids with a minimum of fuss. Run through the entire speech several times,
practicing how you will show the aids, the gestures you will make, and the
timing of each move. In using visual aids, as in other aspects of speechmaking,
there is no substitute for preparation.
There are many kinds of visual aids. Most obvious is the object about which you
are speaking, or a model of it. Diagrams, sketches, and other kinds of drawings are
valuable because you can design them to illustrate your points exactly. Graphs are
an excellent way to illustrate any subject dealing with numbers, while charts are
used to summarize large blocks of information. Although video can be useful as a
visual aid, it needs to be carefully edited and integrated into the speech. Photo-
graphs should be large enough to be seen clearly by all your listeners. If you have
access to the right equipment, you may be able to use a multimedia presentation.
Finally, you can act as your own visual aid by performing actions that demonstrate
processes or ideas.
No matter what kind of visual aid you use, you need to prepare it carefully. You
will be most successful if you prepare your aids in advance, keep them simple, make
sure they are large enough to be seen clearly, and use color effectively for emphasis
and visual appeal. If you are creating visual aids on a computer, use a limited num-
ber of fonts and make sure the ones you select will be easy to read.
In addition to being designed with care, visual aids need to be presented skill-
fully. Avoid writing or drawing visual aids on the chalkboard or passing them
among the audience. Instead, display each aid only while you are talking about it,
and be sure to place it where everyone can see it without straining. When present-
ing a visual aid, maintain eye contact with your listeners and explain the aid clearly
and concisely. Above all, practice with your visual aids so they fit into your speech
smoothly and expertly.
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model (269) chart (272)
graph (270) transparency (274)
line graph (270) multimedia presentation (274)
pie graph (271) font (277)
bar graph (272)
After reading this chapter, you should be able to answer the following questions:
1. What are the major advantages of using visual aids in your speeches?
2. What kinds of visual aids might you use in a speech?
3. What guidelines are given in the chapter for preparing visual aids?
4. What guidelines are given in the chapter for presenting visual aids?
For further review, go to the
Study Questions in the online
Study Aids for this chapter.
EXERCISES FOR CRITICAL THINKING
1. Watch a how-to television program (a cooking or gardening show, for example)
or the weather portion of a local newscast. Notice how the speaker uses visual
aids to help communicate the message. What kinds of visual aids are used? How
do they enhance the clarity, interest, and retainability of the speaker’s message?
What would the speaker have to do to communicate the message effectively
without visual aids?
2. Consider how you might use visual aids to explain each of the following:
a. How to perform the Heimlich maneuver to help a choking victim.
b. The proportion of the electorate that votes in major national elections in the
United States, France, Germany, England, and Japan, respectively.
c. Where to obtain information about student loans.
d. The wing patterns of various species of butterflies.
e. The increase in the amount of money spent by Americans on health care since
f. How to change a bicycle tire.
g. The basic equipment and techniques of rock climbing.
3. Plan to use visual aids in at least one of your classroom speeches. Be creative in
devising your aids, and be sure to follow the guidelines discussed in the chapter
for using them. After the speech, analyze how effectively you employed your
visual aids, what you learned about the use of visual aids from your experience,
and what changes you would make in using visual aids if you were to deliver the
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Applying the Power of Public Speaking
As a veterinarian and owner of a small-animal practice, you work closely with your
local humane society to help control a growing population of unwanted dogs and
cats. You and your staff devote many hours annually in free and reduced-cost
medical services to animals adopted from the society. Now you have been asked to
speak to the city council in support of legislation proposed by the society for stron-
ger enforcement of animal licensing and leash laws.
In your speech, you plan to include statistics that (1) compare estimates of the
city’s dog population with the number of licenses issued during the past five years
and (2) show the small number of citations given by local law enforcement for
unleashed pets during the same period of time. Knowing from your college public
speaking class how valuable visual aids can be in presenting statistics, you decide to
illustrate one set of statistics with a chart and the other with a graph.
For which set of statistics will a chart be more appropriate? For which set will
a graph be more appropriate? Of the three kinds of graphs discussed in this chapter
(bar, line, pie), which will work best for your statistics and why?
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Pluses and Minuses of PowerPoint
P lanning to Use PowerPoint
For matting PowerPoint Slides
Del ivering Your Speech with PowerPoint
Recheck Your Slides
K now Slide Show Commands
P ractice Your Speech with PowerPoint
Display Slides Only While Discussing Them
Che ck the Room and Equipment
Develop a Backup Plan
Co pyright and Fair Use
S ample Speech with Commentary