Chapter 8: Using Visual Aids

Benefits of Visual Aids

In addition to the three functions just described, visual aids can have some added benefits as well. First, they can help you control stage fright. If your palms get sweaty or your stomach rumbles as your turn to speak approaches, visual aids can help reduce that anxiety. Research has shown that when a speaker concentrates on the physical objects s/he will use during a speech, s/he becomes less concerned with worrying about how s/he will speak and look. Planning for and using visual aids require more practice, and this practice could also alleviate anxiety.

Next, visual aids can complement or replace speaker notes. Maybe you’re worried about forgetting what you’ll say or if you’ll be able to see your notes as you speak. If you plan a presentation that uses charts, overhead transparencies, slides, or computer graphics, such as PowerPoint, the visual component will be large and right in front of your audience’s eyes -and yours. Just remember that your job is to balance looking at notes and visuals with the need to make eye contact with your audience.

Finally, visual aids can help your audience remember your speech. Do you remember the exact details of the classic food pyramid -the precise servings of grains or fruits that all people are supposed to intake every day? Probably not, but you do remember the shape. You may even remember that whole grains and cereals are at the bottom, fruits and vegetables above that, and meats and dairy products still higher. We remember the basic details of the food pyramid because of the power of the visual. Why? Because the visual lingers on in our minds even when the details, or words, don’t initially “stick ” or fade over time.

One student who delivered a persuasive speech regarding why children should not be spanked began by holding up a switch, a large spoon, and a belt. She asked the audience if they were familiar with these items. She went on to ask if the objects reminded anyone of their childhood. Without question, students in class remembered those visual aids, even though they may not have remembered every word the speaker said. Many people remember what they see more than what they hear. When considering your speech, from topic selection to outlining and rehearsing, think about whether the use of a visual object will help your audience remember your topic or parts of your content.


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