Public speaking: creative old-school imagery

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Before speakers used PowerPoint, there were overhead projectors, flip charts, handouts, and white boards. Before that, there were slide projectors and movie projectors. Sometimes people used accessories.

Before that, there were whiteboards and before that, well, there were just speakers! And believe it or not, the speakers were pretty effective, even without visual elements.

There is no question that images provide additional benefits to a presentation. According to “Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach” by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, presentation aids

“improve comprehension”, “improve memory”, “help listeners organize ideas”, “help gain and maintain attention”, and “help illustrate a sequence of events or procedures”.

Read on for tips on effective and creative visual aids the traditional, low-tech way.

1. Before the presentation

flip chart

Write up your flipcharts ahead of time (unless you are going to write audience comments or questions). Leave a blank page or two between the prepared pages, in case you want to add something during the presentation. This also prevents the following pages from being displayed.

Make sure your text is big enough for everyone in the room to see – letters should be 2-3 inches tall, depending on the size of the room. Text should be in dark colors so your audience doesn’t have to strain to see

that. Using a grid and perforated pad ensures clean writing and tearing. And check your spelling before you put your flipchart away!

I like to use the sticky flipchart; it’s like a giant Post-it® note that I can tear off and stick to the wall. The page can be repositioned as needed, and the chart can stand on its own on a table. Not

need for tape or easel.

See Garr Reynolds’ list of resources for flipchart tips:

Brochures, part 1

Prepare only what is necessary to recap your main points, or provide additional resources, such as a copy of a journal article or a list of websites or books to use for further research on your topic.

You may want to include a simple marketing document, such as a brochure, but don’t go overboard with marketing materials; Including your name and contact information at the bottom of your brochures should suffice. And keep your documents simple and easy to read; don’t overwhelm your audience with too much reading material.

Print brochures on colored paper to differentiate each one for your audience and eliminate the monotony of blank brochures.

Signs, banners or large images

You may want to give your audience something to look at as they enter the room and take their seats. A poster-sized photograph or other striking image that relates to your topic is a great image to get

all on the same page. Just be sure to cover or remove it before you start speaking, so the audience isn’t distracted.

2. During the presentation


Props can add interest and humor to your presentation, and help illustrate your points, as long as you don’t overuse them and practice before your presentation.

Props can be items placed around the room for audience members to use or enjoy before or during the performance, such as candy, snacks, puzzles, or toys. These work best in interactive workshop settings,

where you expect your audience to be active.

Props can help you remember certain parts of your presentation without using notes, such as an item you take to prove a particular point. Props, like a visual cue, also help your audience remember

what you talked about For example, one speaker, whose topic was compulsive buying, delivered his brochures to his audience in mini shopping bags.

Instead of a pie chart, how about cutting an actual pie? Or put on several hats to represent different sections of your presentation. Accessories don’t have to be complicated. Any well-worn accessory can add a special touch.

to your presentation. Make sure everyone in the room can see the accessory, and don’t take it out until you’re ready to use it.


Is there anything related to your topic that you can demonstrate as part of your presentation? Can you make an origami crane, do a short craft project, or demonstrate how to change a pot into a plant?

The demo is a great teaching tool if it is clear, concise, and gives well-organized instructions.

Brochures part 2

Save handouts for last, or if you need your audience to follow a document, only hand out the one they need at the time they need it. Handouts are distracting and divert the speaker’s attention, so plan carefully when he will deliver them.

3. After the presentation

Ideally, you have a table in the back of the room where you can display brochures, books, brochures, business cards, and other additional resources for your audience. Make a vertical display board for this.

table that includes photos, maps, graphs, tables, text, and other images to engage your audience as they walk in and out of the room. This is a good way to display complex information that wasn’t

appropriate to review in detail during the presentation.

Using a variety of visual techniques helps you grab and hold your audience’s attention, and helps them retain what they learn. Try something new: Images don’t have to be high-tech to make a big impact.

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