8 Tips on the Proper Use of Visuals

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 30, 2011

Well used visuals can push a presentation to the next level. Many times I have noticed a presenter making mistakes when using visuals such as talking to the screen, chart, model, or other. If you want to create a relationship with the audience, you have to look at them rather than your beloved visual. Keep the following in mind next time a visual will be part of a presentation you give.

Focus on the Audience. Talk to the participants, not to the visual. Stand so that the visual is stage right. Practice this a few times—not just in your head, but physically practice using the visual. Do a practice run until you feel comfortable using the visual and any associated equipment.

Be Relevant. Any visual you use must be relevant and enhance your message. Otherwise, the audience will spend their time trying to figure out how the visual connects with your message.

Be in Sync. The visual should complement your spoken words and not be redundant. As you speak, the logic of the visual should be revealed to your audience. You should not have to explain its meaning in excruciating detail.

Be Visible. Your audience should be able to see or read the visual within a few seconds—even those sitting in the back row. If not, try something different.

Keep It Simple. The best visuals are simple and easy to understand. If the material is complex, or you want more impact, think about how you can do a gradual build: start with an easy-to-understand visual and work up to the more complex. You can also put more detail in a handout or takeaway.

Avoid Clutter. Remove anything in the line of sight of the participants that does not add value to your presentation.

Customize. For each visual, see if there is a simple way to customize it for your particular audience: the topic, the event, the theme, and the organization—including its logo, tagline, mission, vision, and goals. When you personalize your visuals, it shows you care about the audience and what’s valuable to them.

Fire when Ready. Show your visual only when you’re ready to use it. Introduce the visual and then reveal it—or, for a hint of surprise, reveal the visual and then introduce it. Don’t forget to put it out of sight when you have finished referring to it.

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