Visual Aids to the Rescue!

"Something is happening. We are becoming a visually mediated society. For many, understanding of the world is being accomplished, not through words, but by reading images" - Lester, 2006

Visual aids are an effective way of supporting and supplementing any speech or presentation. They can increase the audience's understanding of your topic, explain points, make an impact and create enthusiasm.

They can also detract from the speaker's presence, as a way of avoiding eye contact or interaction with an audience and create a temptation to read directly from slides.

There are many purposes for using visual aids, for instance, you may want to summarize information, reduce the amount of spoken words, clarify and show examples. You can also use visual aids to create more of an impact, emphasize what you're saying to make a point memorable. Most speakers use them to make something easier for the audience to understand.

Here is a list of common visual aids, and quick tips for using them effectively:

PowerPoint slides

Your slides should present main points as short sentences and bullet points and should never be read verbatim by the speaker or presenter.

Diagrams, graphs and charts

They should always coincide with what is being said in the speech. Always stand to the side of a diagram, graph or chart while facing the audience.


They should be passed out to an audience before or after a presentation to avoid wasting time and causing a distraction.

Photographs or sketches

These can be powerful visual aids as long as a speaker maintains consistency between what is being said and what is being shown. 

Physical objects and props

They should not be too large or too small, nor too few or too many. They should always be relevant to the presentation or speech and should always be checked prior to taking the stage to make sure they are working properly.

Once you have decided that you want to use a visual aid, you must ensure that the audience is able to quickly understand the image - it must be clear.

Operating a visual aid while giving a speech can be challenging. Here are some key points to help you get a head start:


Try to find out what the public speaking room is like beforehand, such as, the layout of the room, the equipment etc., so you can see if your visual aids are appropriate and whether they will work there but always have a contingency plan regardless.


Before your presentation, ensure that you practice with your visual aids so you know how to operate the equipment. If something goes wrong you'll have a better chance of solving the problem.


Research suggests that using colour increases people's motivation to read and their enthusiasm for a presentation.

Always choose your visual aids tactically so you appeal to your audience. This means finding images your audience can relate to, images they will find familiar and images they will like. Also think about what style of visual aid is suitable for the audience; is it quite a serious presentation? Can you be humorous? Is it more formal or informal?

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