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How to properly use visual aids when presenting

It's a day that everyone, presenter and listener alike, dreads: presentation day.It's a day when your employees are herded into a too small, too warm and dimly lit conference room and then forced to listen to you or some other executive give a presentation on some matter of business.More often than not, half of the employees fall asleep during the presentation.The other half is playing with their blackberries or cell phones.Maybe you are even distracted (and you're the one forcing everyone into the presentation!)So what's the key to giving a good presentation?Visual aids.But there is a catch: visual aids must be done properly or else they often have the reverse effect.But don't worry.Using visual aids properly when presenting can be a very fun and rewarding experience.

Visual aids can add an entirely new dimension to your presentation.They can enhance your presentation and make it memorable.They can help your audience stay interested and involved in what you have to say.When used improperly, however, they can and will distract from your main points.They may bore or confuse your audience.They could even put them to sleep.PowerPoint slides are a perfect example of this.PowerPoint is an excellent program and, when used properly, can add life to any presentation.However, only about 10 percent of presenters actually use it properly, so beware!

The first key to visual aids is using a wide variety of them.Deciding which ones to use can be tough, but it is imperative that you do so carefully.For example, placing flip charts around the room for your audience to use as feedback for you (thereby involving them) is one good type of visual aid.Another is using slides with more graphics (or even cartoons) than words.Handouts, posters, and props that serve as metaphors can all work together to hold the attention of your audience.

So here are a few specific tips to keep in mind when giving a presentation with visual aids:

1. Use PowerPoint with care.With so much technology available nowadays, it's easy to turn to programs like PowerPoint and simply spit all of your information onto a template: Voila!You have a presentation!However, beware of putting too much information in each slide.Also, take care not to load each slide with too many animated distractions.It takes away from what you are saying as a presenter.Finally, you should have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong and the PowerPoint won't load, the projector won't turn on and then your presentation is a flop.You should have something planned just in case.
2. Keep it simple.Use the six-by-six rule: no more than six lines of text on each slid, and each line should have no more than six words on it.This not only helps with making the most important points obvious to the audience, but it also helps with visibility.
3. Know how to use the projected images.Whether you're using a high tech program, a slide projector, or an over head projector, you should know how to handle them professionally.Don't just read your slides off-face the audience, not the image.Don't walk in front of the projection.Avoid turning the light completely off.
4. Prepare space for your visuals.Arrive early to your presentation and prepare the room as much as possible.That way, if your visuals don't work you'll have time to think of something else.If necessary, rearrange the room to suit your needs.
5. Practice!Spend many hours before your presentation rehearsing what you plan on saying and how you plan to incorporate your visuals. This will make your presentation run smoothly on the big day.

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