University of Hawai'i Maui Community College Speech Department

Using Visual Aids Effectively

The key to a strong presentation isn't the equipment you use. You should be able to do your presentation on a blank stage, with no props, and have it work on its own.  The whole idea of visual aids is to enhance your presentation, not to be the purpose of it.

The absolutely worst presenters are those who use the equipment as a crutch. For example, those who stand up before a group and just read slides during a presentation.
It is very important that you follow the rules of using visual aids in the next pages to have a successful presentation.

Don't make your Visual Aids visual distractions.
Click Here to find out how to Avoid visual aid blunders.

The overhead projector is the most used and abused of all audio-visual equipment. Everyone in business has one and usually uses it. They are a common fixture in most conference rooms.  Overhead projectors can greatly enhance your presentation if they are used right. They are very easy to use and can accommodate large or small audiences. 

Tips on using this vital piece of equipment:
 Before Presentations:
1. Make sure the plug reaches the socket. It is a good idea to carry an extension cord

2. Put the projector at a height that is comfortable for you.

3. Make sure the lens is dust free.

4. Put the projector on a vibration free base.

5. Arrange the electric cord so no one will trip over it.

6. Focus and center the picture on the screen beforehand.

7. Number your transparencies in accordance with your facilitator's guide.

8. Never assume projectors will work. Have a backup strategy ready.

 During Presentations:
1. Keep the screen above the heads of the participants.

2. Keep the screen in full view of participants.

3. Make sure you are not blocking anyone's view when presenting.

4. Darken the room appropriately by blocking out sunshine and dimming nearby lights.

5. Turn the screen off between slides if you are going to talk for more than two minutes.

6. No one should be farther from the screen than six times the width of the image.

7. Talk to the audience, not to the screen.

8. Use a pointer to emphasize points, don't use it as a crutch and don't wave it wildly.


 Before Presentations:
1. Check the height of the easel.

2. Make sure you have plenty of paper.

 During Presentations:
1. Title each page with a short topic or heading.

2. Print the large block letters 1 1/4 inches high, larger if the room is deeper than 30ft.   

3. Printing should be neat and legible.

4. Use different colors for page headings and primary points.

5. The color red should be used only for emphasis.

6. Do not use pastel colors. Black, blue, dark green and brown are acceptable.

7. Put marker down when you are not using it.

8. Don't talk to the board while writing on it.

9. Do not write more than ten lines on a page.

10. Do not fill the page to the bottom. People in the back will be unable to see.

11. Respond to and note input from participants.

12. Post important papers on the wall with masking tape or pins.

13. Do not write on the papers after posting on the wall. The pen may bleed.

14. Highlight key points.

15. Respond to and highlight input from participants.

16. Allow time for reading, retention and note taking.

17. Use the 'matador tear', a sharp tug at the corner, not straight down. 

 Other suggestions:
1. For complex pages, prepare ahead in light pencil and then trace with a marker.

2. If you travel with prepared pages, roll them up and carry them in a mailing tube.

3. Sometimes you might use two easels, one already prepared and one for extemporaneous use.


 Before Presentations:
1. Be sure the videotape is rewound and at the starting point. Do this right after you show the film.

2. Check to make sure the playback machine and the monitor are playing properly. Check this before the session so you may replace the machine if it is not working properly.

3. Check audio level and contrast.

4. Lights should be dimmed but not turned off.

 During Presentation:
1. Explain what the purpose of the tape is before playing it.

2. Show interest in the tape and watch it enthusiastically.

3. Summarize the main points after you have shown the tape.


 Before Presentation:
1. Be sure the tape is rewound and at its starting point.

2. Adjust the volume so all participants can hear.

3. Use a high quality recorder to prevent distortion.

4. If the recorder is portable, position it at table level of the participants.

5. Explain the purpose of the tape and identify the speaker before playing. 

6. Always carry a backup tape!


1. If you are using training manuals, make sure each student has one.

2. Make sure you have a few extra books with you in case extra students arrive.

3. Make sure you frequently reference page numbers with your audience so they know where you are in the book.

1. For visual variety provide handouts on yellow light blue paper.

2. Distribute the handouts just prior to discussing the topics.

3. Have extra handouts for unexpected participants.


 Before Presentation:
1. If you are going to be moving around during your presentation make sure that a clip on (Lavalier) microphone is available.

2. The Lavalier should be attached to a jacket, lapel, collar, neckline or tie above the mid chest level, but not against the larynx or your voice will become muffled.

 During Presentation:
1. Speak clearly into the microphone.

2. Keep proper distance from the microphone. When using a standard podium microphone talk about six inches from the microphone.

3. Repeat questions from the audience into the microphone. This helps everyone hear the question that was asked.

Don't make your Visual Aids visual distractions.
Click Here to find out how to Avoid visual aid blunders.

The Public Speakers' Resources
|Public Speakers' Page | Speech 151 | Speech 251 | Public Speaking Resources|
|Supporting Your Speech | Sample Speeches | Speech Practice | Speaking Tips|
|Speech Anxiety | Team Presentations | Group Communication | Interviewing|
|Using Visual Aids | ESL Links | Anonymous Feedback | Ron St. John|
|The Learning Center | MCC Library | Maui Language Institute|
|Distance Education Academic Support Services|
|The Ho'oulu OnLine (Student Newspaper)|
|The University of Hawai'i at Manoa|

Page Designer: Ron St. John
Copyright 2002 - Ka Leo Kumu
Last Revised: January 16, 2002