Make Your Point with Effective A/V

By Weaver, Maggie | Computers in Libraries, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Make Your Point with Effective A/V


Weaver, Maggie, Computers in Libraries


Over her 27-year career in information, Maggie Weaver has delivered many presentations, workshops, and training courses. She has taught the courses "Sources of Business Intelligence" and "Entrepreneurship" at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been a DIALOG trainer for several years, and currently offers a continuing education course called "A Survival Guide to Presentations" at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information Studies. She has managed libraries in a variety of organizations: corporate, consulting, government, and nonprofit. Weaver has managed fee-based information services in the public and private sectors. Her e-mail address is maggieweaver@metrodesk.metrotor.on.ca.

One of the core competencies for librarians today is communication skills. Like it or not, sooner or later you'll have to stand up, face a group, and speak in order to sell your ideas, to deliver training, or to promote your services. Presentations are part of our job--we must ensure that we do them as well as we do the other parts, especially since good presentations reflect well on our library service. This is an important part of library outreach today.

It's not just what you know that's important; it's how you communicate your ideas to others. And words account for only a small part of the total message. The way you structure your presentation, your style, nonverbal communication skills, equipment--even your listening skills--all these contribute to how effectively your message is received by your audience.

In particular, we use visual aids in presentations to accommodate different learning styles in our audience. Left-brainers like handouts, definitions, and outlines: right-brainers like visuals to demonstrate a concept. So our overheads or computer screens should include both text and graphics to address both groups.

Audio/visual materials, also known as MV, should be used to highlight the key points of your presentation, as they help the audience remember your message by offering a visual focus.

Start with the Basics

Your initial slide or overhead should be a "title screen," which can be a "test pattern" for color, resolution, and visibility from the back of the room. If you have unfamiliar terms in your title screen, you can leave it up while you define the terms. This initial slide should also have your name on it. but details like phone number or e-mail address are better left to a handout or a business card.

A "structure" visual is useful, too, to let the audience know where you're going and how you intend to get there. The visual need not be text--I use an iceberg image as a "structure" screen, to illustrate all the preparation behind a presentation, the visible part that the audience sees, and the nervous part at the "waterline" where you step forward before an audience for the first time. Use the same structure visual when you move from one section of your presentation to another, and again at the end to recap.

One Concept on Each Slide

The key to a good visual is simplicity--use it as a hook for the audience or a reminder for yourself, not as an explanation. So each visual should have only one illustration or a maximum of 25 words, with no more than five words per line and five lines, double-spaced and left-justified. Proofread carefully!

Which words should you use? The audience will remember more easily if the key words or points start with the same sound, are alliterative, or are in parallel form. For example:

Be a communicator.

* Be prepared.

* Be committed.

* Be interesting.

For statistics, avoid tables. Instead, use a maximum of six columns or six slices in a pie chart, and a maximum of four curves on a graph. Write labels horizontally. Title the chart with your conclusions rather than a data description, and put the titles at the top of the screen, not under the image. …

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