Visual aids are one type of support material for a speech. Because people remember best what they simultaneously see and hear, visual aids are powerful tools for a speaker.
What are the benefits of using visual aids?
They offer five benefits:
- They increase understanding. Ours is a visual age. Most of what we learn is ingested through our eyes—not our ears. Visual aids help you convey messages in the dimension best suited to clear understanding.
- They save time. Information presented visually is received and processed by the brain faster than a verbal message. Visual aids are especially useful in helping people quickly understand complex or abstract ideas.
- They enhance retention. People remember an average of just 10 percent of a spoken message a week after it is presented. However, they remember up to two thirds of what they both see and hear.
- They promote attentiveness. People think much faster than you speak, so their minds tend to wander during a speech. Visuals help keep them focused on your message; they also add variety and interest to a presentation.
- They help control nervousness. Displaying visual aids gives you purposeful physical activity that lets your body process nervous energy without distracting the audience.
The most common visual aids are computer-based aids, overhead transparencies, flipcharts, whiteboards, and props. Your choice for a particular speech depends on several factors, including:
- The information you wish to convey.
- The size of the audience.
- The equipment available to you.
- The time available to prepare visuals.
- The amount of money you can afford to spend.
When do visual aids make the difference?
Visual aids complement a presentation, not to be the presentation. Charts, graphs, diagrams, models, pictures, and printed words can stimulate your audience and increase their retention of your material. But you don’t need a visual aid for every sentence you say or every point you make. If you emphasize everything, then nothing seems important!
You should use them only:
- To reinforce a main point. A visual aid tells the audience that what you just said, or are about to say, is important and something they should remember.
- To enhance understanding/remembrance of complex material. Visual aids help the audience understand things such as relationships, construction, and statistics.
- To save time. Sometimes the same message is communicated faster and better through visuals rather than spoken words.
Keep in mind
In reality, some people use visual aids as prompts for their presentations, relying on them as notes. Visual aids do not replace preparation. You still must be so thoroughly familiar with your presentation that you can give it even without using visual aids.