With Visual Aids, More Is Less

Article excerpt

I would like your opinion about the use of electronic visual aids in public speaking. Today, speakers are constantly using PowerPoint or overheads, but I do not feel comfortable with any of those things unless they are necessary. I have listened to presentations by well-regarded experts which were little more than a string of overheads, weakly tied together, completely neutralizing that wonderful speaker/audience chemistry. What is your advice?

Thanks, Rick, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Moses didn't use PowerPoint

When we look deep into our past, before microphones, overhead projectors or PowerPoint, there was a speaker and an audience; a speaker who stood before tired and frightened peoples, urging them to cross rugged landscapes, and to inhabit new lands. Speakers have moved audiences to declare themselves free from tyranny and to defend those hard won freedoms with their lives. We who live in the United States are the direct beneficiaries of those Public Speakers, none of whom had a microphone, flip chart, overhead projector, or laptop.

The great speeches in history were delivered without the use of today's visual aids.

Aids should support, not become, the speech

If you are going to incorporate visual aids into your presentation--be it a flip chart or computerized graphics--support should be the governing principle. You want your visual aids to strengthen but not to become the presentation. As you develop the presentation, ask someone who will give you an honest answer to these questions:

* Do I have too many visuals?

* Is there real content, or do the visual aids interfere with my delivery and ability to interact with the audience?

* Do I really need them?

* How obvious will a technical failure be?

The hidden danger with all visual aids is overuse-especially true with the PowerPoint slides. We have all sat through presentations where it was one slide after another after another after another after another ... OK, you get the point.s

"If one is good, two are better," might apply to Tums for a stage-fright tummy, but not to visual aids. …