We all know that presentation aids, when used effectively, can help gain attention, enhance understanding through illustration, help listeners organize their ideas, and help to make ideas “stick”. Use of such tools is known as “visual rhetoric”, which focuses not only on what the audience hears, but also on what the audience sees. Presentation aids that are often used today include graphs, maps, photos, models, objects, charts, flip charts, whiteboards, sound effects, and even smells.

In this guide, we’ll first take a look at slide construction tips, followed by a few guidelines for effectively delivery.

Slide Construction Tips

When using presentation aids effectively it’s important to remember a few basic guidelines:

#1 Simple and Uncomplicated

Visual “aids” are supposed to help your audience understand your message. Busy, complicated visual aids are not helpful. Remember to keep the visuals simple and uncomplicated – this means being careful that the visual images (often PowerPoint or Keynote slides) don’t upstage the speaker or presenter.

Sometimes presenters get a little carried away with the “cool” features of the presentation software they are using or they include a video clip that has a greater impact than their message. Avoid that temptation if you want your message to “stick” with your audience.

#2 Colors and Fonts

Choose wisely when using colors and fonts. Are the colors and fonts you chose communicating the message that you want to send? Certain type faces and colors “speak” to the audience better than others. For example, red and orange communicate excitement and interest while blue and green tend to have a calming effect.

Also remember that colors can appear more vibrant on your large work monitor than when displayed through a video projector. Fonts and font enhancements (bold, italics, etc) can create the right, or wrong, mood. The font style needs to convey the right message and the text needs to be large enough to be seen from a distance.

#3 Communicate Clearly

Construct slides that communicate a clear message and can be easily understood with a quick glance away from the speaker.

Remember, if the audience is reading a text-heavy slide they are probably NOT listening to what you’re saying. We think we can multi-task. Truth is, we can’t. We can either listen actively to the speaker/presenter or we can actively read the information on the slide. Make it easy for your audience to fully benefit from you AND the visual aids.

Presentation Delivery Tips

Now that we’ve discussed a few important slide creation tips, let’s jump into some delivery ideas that will help keep your audience engaged.

#1 Rehearse Like You Perform

Rehearse using your presentation aids. Nothing reeks of “unprofessional” like a presenter who fumbles through a slide deck and appears unprepared. I once heard someone comment “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” Always know what’s on each slide, how to activate imbedded videos, how to work the sound, if needed, etc. Multiple rehearsals using the presentation aids will help to ensure a quality performance and help you to NOT be a fool with a really cool tool.

#2 Make Consistent Eye Contact

Make eye contact with the audience, not the presentation aids. Many people insist on looking at the projection screen, whiteboard or flip chart and talking TO it, rather than sharing information directly with the audience. When you’re making eye contact with the audience you also have a much better chance of the audience hearing everything you say. Eye contact with the audience is the best way to keep them engaged for the duration of your performance.

#3 No Pass-arounds

Avoid passing objects around the audience while you’re on stage. “Pass-arounds” are generally a distraction that takes away from your performance and your ability to effectively convey your message to the audience. If you’re handing things out, then YOU are pre-occupied and not giving your performance all of your energy.

Coincidentally, the audience is also pre-occupied watching you hand things out and passing things around. If you need to provide handouts to the audience, avoid giving the audience ALL of the handouts at once. Only give them the handout that is relevant to the topic you’re covering, and then only at the time the audience needs to have it. If you can have someone else distribute the handouts, that would be even better than you doing it.