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Types of Visual Aids Used in Public Speaking

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  • 0:01 Visual Aids
  • 0:43 Low-Tech
  • 2:58 High-Tech
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Many people understand that visual aids can be helpful in public speaking. But what types of visual aids should a person choose? Watch this lesson for information on the types of visual aids and how to choose the best one.

Visual Aids

Marge is preparing a talk about knitting for her local 4-H club. She's very nervous. She knows what she wants to say, but she's worried about getting up in front of all those people. How can she help them understand what she's saying? And how can she help them remember what she's said after the talk is finished?

Visual aids are supplements to the speaking part of public speaking. They provide visual clues to help audience members engage and learn from the speech. If Marge includes visual aids in her speech, her audience will be able to understand and remember her point better.

Marge has many options for visual aids. Let's look at some of the types of visual aids, including those that use technology and those that don't.

Low-Tech

As we've seen, visual aids can really help Marge out with her knitting talk. But there are a lot of different options for visual aids. The first decision she needs to make is whether she is comfortable going with a technology-based option or not. While technology is great, there are also some very good low-tech visual aid options that Marge can use, either instead of or in addition to high-tech visual aids.

Marge's own personal appearance is an example of a low-tech visual aid. She's surprised to hear this; isn't how she looks just incidental? Well, not if she plays up her appearance and dresses for the talk. For example, she's doing a talk on knitting, so she might want to wear a sweater or scarf that is hand-knitted. If she was doing a talk on fire safety, she could wear a firefighter's uniform. So, her personal appearance can be a visual aid.

Marge can also use objects or props as visual aids. For example, she might want to bring knitting needles or yarn to demonstrate the tools used in knitting. A helmet is a good prop for a talk on bike safety. And, if she was giving a sales presentation, she'd want to bring the merchandise she was trying to sell.

One important thing that Marge will want to think about is how to make a prop visible for a large audience. She thinks that passing around her knitting needles might be a good idea, but it can cause a distraction for some members of the audience, especially when the needles arrive in their hands just as Marge has moved on to some other important point. They might be paying attention to the needles and not to what she's saying! For this reason, sometimes props are not the best idea for large groups. For smaller groups, she can hold the prop up and the audience can see it, but for larger groups it might not work as well.

A poster or flip chart is another low-tech visual aid that's suitable for small groups. For example, Marge can make a poster demonstrating the steps to knit, or she could make a flip chart, which is just a series of posters bound together that the speaker flips through, with each step on its own poster or page within the flip chart. As with props, large groups sometimes have difficulty seeing a poster or flip chart, so it's best for small groups.

High-Tech

Marge is intrigued by all the low-tech visual aid options she has, but she would also like to include some technology in her talk. She wonders what her options are for that.

Video clips can be an engaging addition to a talk. Video clips should be short and to-the-point. Between 30 seconds and three minutes is best; any longer than that, and the audience is likely to tune the video out. For example, Marge can show a short video that demonstrates how to knit.

Remember that we said that posters and flip charts are best for small groups? Well, what if Marge has a large group? In that case, slideware, like PowerPoint, is a good option. Slideware is a type of software that allows a speaker to create slides and move through them as they speak. It's kind of like an electronic flip chart. Because the slides are projected on a big screen, they are often easier for large groups to see.

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