Visual Aids in Public Speaking: Importance, Purpose, and Audience Considerations

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  • 0:01 Visual Aids
  • 1:09 Why Use Them
  • 2:42 How to Use Them
  • 5:18 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.

Giving a speech can be nerve-wracking, and it might seem easy to just skip the visual aids. In this lesson, we'll discuss why that's a bad idea, why visual aids are important, and what elements make a great visual aid.

Visual Aids

Let's try a quick experiment. Read the following. The occipital lobe of your brain is at the back of the brain and aids in the interpretation of visual stimuli. What you see travels through your brain via the optic nerve to the primary visual cortex in the posterior section of the brain and then is interpreted, so you know what you are looking at.

Okay. Can you remember what you just read? How well did you understand it? If you're like most people, you probably remember and can understand only a small part. But it would be a lot easier to understand if you were shown what the words were talking about, like where the occipital lobe is and how visual information travels from the eyes to the primary visual cortex.

A visual aid is something that supplements words with a picture, chart, or illustration. Looking at an image of the brain and the optic nerve as you read about it is a good example of a visual aid. It is a supplement to the words you're reading.

Let's look at why you should use visual aids when you give a speech and the best ways to use them.

Why Use Them

Imagine that you are going to present information to one of your classes. You're nervous and have lots of things to say to them. You have spent so much time working on your speech that you wonder if it's worth it to make visual aids to go with it. Why bother with visuals?

There are many good reasons to use visual aids. First, and most importantly, visual aids help your audience understand and remember information that you talk about. Remember when I had you read the plain text about the topic? It wasn't a very effective way for you to learn that information.

Most people learn through visuals, perhaps even more so than through listening. So, a good visual aid can really help your audience understand you and remember what you said later. In fact, one study showed that 3 days after a presentation, people who only heard a speaker remembered about 10% of the information, while people who heard and saw visual information remembered about 65% of the information. That's a lot more!

Another good reason to use visual aids is that they increase audience interest. It can be pretty boring to sit and listen to someone talk on and on about something, but having visual aids will help capture and keep people interested in what you're saying.

Finally, visual aids can serve as notes or reminders for the speaker. When you're giving a speech, it can be very nerve-wracking. Having visual aids helps you remember what you want to say and keeps you from going off on tangents.

How to Use Them

You're giving a speech to your class, and you know that visual aids are important. But you still aren't sure what to do. How exactly do you use visual aids?

The best visual aids have five things in common. You can remember these by remembering the first letter of each word of the sentence 'Sweet Sarah always answers persuasively.'

The first 's' is for 'simplicity.' You should keep things as simple as possible. If you want to use an image, use one that is not too crazy or complicated. If you're making a chart, make it clear and simple. If you have too much going on, people will get confused or distracted. Remember, less is more!

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