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Speaking Tips Effective Public Speaking Your Best Visual Aid

Updated on May 24, 2013

How you appear is most important

The writer at 74.  Unlikely as it seems, in an age where everyone strives to be young, this doesn't worry speakers.   For speakers gain more credibility the older they get.
The writer at 74. Unlikely as it seems, in an age where everyone strives to be young, this doesn't worry speakers. For speakers gain more credibility the older they get.

Your best visual aid

When people meet us for the first time, whether it be a face-to-face hand-shake encounter or one where we're before them as a speaker, we are almost immediately judged. We are judged in four ways, and four ways only: how we look; what we do; what we say, and how we say it. But what has this got to do with visual aids?

'Live' is always better!

I want you to imagine the following scenario...

You are invited to a big, formal function where you know that a well known band will be playing. You've come along to hear their music. As you come into the foyer there is some beautiful piped music being sung by a world famous singer, backed by a legendary orchestra. You don't pay much attention to it, as you mingle with the guests, greet and meet friends and find your seats in the auditorium.The member of the band you've come to listen to file in, taken up their places and, after a brief introduction, they start to play.

Now, it could well be that this band is nowhere as polished as the singer and band in the piped music which preceded the event - but suddenly you're rivvetted. You're enthralled. You start to tap your feet to the music. This is good! You're carried away!

Why? What is the difference between the earlier piped music and the music you're experiencing now in the same auditorium where it is actually being played?

Being Present Makes All the Difference

This difference between the piped music, no matter how polished, and the music where you are actually in the same location as the live band is that there is something more being added. It is difficult to describe, but you know it is there. Their being present makes all the difference. You can feel the energy radiating off them. And you, can feel the emanations of excitement and partipation of others around you who are also responding to that energy.   It seems to fill the room.

Make no mistake about it. The energy is real. It is filling the room.   You might not be able to measure it, or even sense it as you can, say, body-heat of someone in close proximity- but you can feel it!   It is there. It might be coming into you at a subconscious level, but it is there. The football crowd who rise as one when the winning goal is kicked close on finishing time-  it's that sort of energy.  And the energy is palpable.

So what has this to do with publc speaking - the best visual aid?

Speaking Tips: Pictures and Charts Augment - You Pursuade

If visual aids by themselves could win the day there would be no need for a presenter. No, all you'd need do is send a brochure, or an audio tape perhaps, or even a DVD of what you wanted to put across. The presenter would be superflous.

Sure you might have some success without a speaker. Maybe one out of a hundred would buy your argument, be influenced enough to come your way. But if you were there 'in the flesh' looking them right in the eye, getting their feedback, giving them yours- communicating - then the chances are very good that you would persuade a big percentage, perhap even the majority to your point of view.

For really effective public speaking your are your best visual aid

You are your best visual aid. What is more, you are your most reliable and dependable visual aid. Digital projectors and lap-top computers so often fail. Over-head projectors sometimes blow bulbs, flip-charts and butchers paper turn out to be not big enough for an audience far larger than expected. You forgot your whiteboard markers. Laser pointers are mislaid. You brought the wrong DVD... Murphy's Law prevails with all visuals except one - you! If you can't make it, the whole shebang is put on hold or a substitute for you found- a real live person!

This does not mean that you shouldn't use visuals. Use them by all means. Check them, and double check them before the meeting. They could well all work. Morevoer, if used skillfully, unobstrusively, they will enhance you're presentation. But do not rely on them to win the day for you.

Your visual aids could let you down, so don't rely on them to carry the day for you

I can recall some twelve years or so ago arriving at a meeting carrying projector, screen, slides, and visuals printed on cardboard, extension leads. I was all ready to present what I thought was a tried and true presentation that I'd done at least fifty times before.

So what happens?

The venue is unsuitable: the room is far too light and it is impossible to darken it. Hurriedly, the MC asks if I can improvise. Could I give a talk without the slides. Well, generally my talk would go for 20 minutes, followed by the slides - with discourse - for another 30. Oh, the trepidation.

"Okay, I'll do it."

I step up and give the presentation without any visual aids. As I proceeded, I could see the audience were rivvetted. There was no mention of slides. I finish. "How long did I go?"

"You spoke for 49 minutes, Tom - and you were terrrific."

Thence ended for ever my reliance on visuals. I never went back to them. The projector and screen gather dust, as do the boxes of 35mm slides I used to use. Saved an awful lot of carrying to and from my car, by the way.

You are the best visual aid

Of course, in business, data needs to be presented in understandable formats. Visuals are great for this. Handouts (never delivered before or during a presentation but always straight afterwards) are probably the best for leaving the audience 'something to take away.' (besides your enthusiasm for your subject)

But please remember, you are the one being evaluated in the first instance. You have to be the one who comes across creditably. To some extent you will anyway, if you know your subject matter. But if you're aware that your delivery, is every bit as important as your content, and you're are fully aware that 'all eyes are on you' not on those visuals, you'll go a long way to being the successful presenter you've always wanted to be.

Speaking Tips: Effective Public Speaking - Your Best Visual Aid.

All the best.

Tom Ware.


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