There's a lot about speaking that scares people, and if you're not familiar with visual aids--from slides to props--you can certainly imagine what might go wrong. The trick to mastering visual aids is, yes, practice...and starting small. Don't try to tackle every technology at once. Here are a few thoughts if you're just dipping your toe into the pond of visuals in your presentations:
- Less is more when it comes to your slides: Your slides are not giant cue cards for you to read, nor are they documents with paragraphs of information for your audience to read. Instead, put a short take-away message on each slide, show a picture that you can describe, or let the slide speak for itself while you pause and let your point sink in. That's also true for the overall amount of slides--less is certainly more. And if you've got too much to say, be sure to save some for the Q-and-A so you look smarter.
- Make yourself a visual: Moving around the room while you speak will keep you energized, and also makes you a moving visual for your audience--it's guaranteed to keep them watching you. Use gestures in the same way. Start your visual efforts by planning and practicing a couple of choice gestures to underscore your point at important moments in your presentation. Once that's comfortable, you can expand to other visuals.
- Consider a three-dimensional visual. Otherwise known as a prop, a 3D visual--no matter how simple--might be the best way to make your point. As with any visual, you need to use props with discretion, but consider this option. Better yet: Use a prop you can pass around the room so the audience can see it close up. A prop can be something as simple as a sheet of paper.
- Practice is essential: From props to slides, you need to understand how they work in practice. Don't attempt to use visuals without rehearsing with them, even if you're a seasoned speaker. You don't need to go it alone. Get some expert help: It's worth asking your company's audio visual technicians to spend a few hours teaching you how to use projection technology, remotes and what goes with them before you speak, if visuals scare you--the more the mysterious becomes familiar, the better you'll do. You may find you want to invest in your own remote so you have one known-to-you piece of technology, no matter where you are presenting. And this is a great way to focus your one-on-one training with a speaker coach or trainer: Ask for a session entirely focused on giving you some visual skills.
Share your questions and fears about visuals in the comments--and your ideas for coping with them.
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