Working with visual aids

It is not always necessary to use visual aids in presentations but they do offer a number of advantages when used well. Visual representation of your ideas can enhance your audience's understanding of your points, provide a point of interest and create a more lasting impact than oral input alone. You should never let your visual aids replace good content. Only once you have determined the structure and main points, should you start preparing any slides or handouts for the presentation.

PowerPoint

The slides are not your talk; they are there to support your talk. Your slides should only provide a few key words, images or figures that enhance and emphasise your points. You can elaborate on the slides by providing the facts, examples and further details.

Some guiding principles for your PowerPoint slides:

  • Keep it simple - avoid clutter, complicated or busy slides. The slides should be supporting what the speaker says, not "the star of the show."
  • PowerPoint is a visual medium so to use it to its advantage, use images instead of text to emphasis a point. Good images might include:
    • High quality graphics - source open license photographs or graphics and appropriately acknowledge them
    • Appropriate charts - simple pie, line or column charts can be very effective in conveying quantitative information.
  • You may prepare presentations and documents based on official University-branded Powerpoint template.
  • Use simple fonts and be consistent throughout the presentation. San-serif fonts are generally best for PowerPoint presentations. Make sure the text can be read from the back of the room. Take care with colours and be aware that some do not mix well or work well under bright lights.

Remember: less is more!

Other aids

If using handouts to provide notes of your presentation for your audience to follow, it is best to distribute them before your presentation. An easy way to create handouts is to use your PowerPoint slides. However, be aware that what is useful to you as the presenter, is not always useful to the audience as a handout, for example if you have used mostly images with little text. You should consider using the "3 per slide" handout option in PowerPoint, which leaves the audience the option to put notes in to supplement your slides. The other option is to create a separate handout that gives more detail than the slides you have used for your presentation. A handout should be no longer than two pages and include: your name and affiliation; title of your presentation; date of presentation; a brief outline of your presentation; a summary of your major points; and a reference list so that audience members can look them up later.

Delivering the presentation >>