Which visual aids should you use in presentations?

Peter Botting
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Public speaking or presenting can appear complex. So many sources of "advice" all offering different and often competing points of view. It can be tough deciding what advice to take and what to ignore. I have seen people use multiple trainers and get screwed up as a result - choose one coach and stick to them.

Deciding which visual aid to use is different: you can use more than one. But you don't have to use any. Remember - the best speeches and presentations in the world happened before modern visual aids were invented.

I emphasise the word aid. These are visual aids - not crutches or replacements for your speech or presentation. Think of them as accessories rather than clothes - a scarf or tie. But not your only clothing.

When it comes to deciding which one to use, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of each and the needs of the audience to understand your message. Choose the one that is best for your style of public speaking.

Here are some ideas on how to decide which visual aid is best when public speaking:


PowerPoint can allow your presentation to become more visually exciting - if used well. PowerPoint can allow you to summarise your arguments easily and show your points in a clear, logical and easy to follow way. But the dangers of using PowerPoint include using bullet points (which should be banned) and hoping PowerPoint will compensate for your lack of clarity or focus.


A video incorporated into your presentation can it a kick. An appropriate video can explain or emphasise your point precisely. A video that shows a key figure or a thought-provoking image can really add to your presentation.

However, the same applies for using video as it does with PowerPoint – it cannot be used instead of a powerful and focused spoken presentation, it can only be used to compliment it. And don't fall in love with the video and forget to focus on your message.


Flipcharts allow for spontaneity and flexibility. They allow you to engage with the audience and do not force you to stick to your rigid script like a PowerPoint would. They are ideal for people who know what they are talking about.

Writing as you go along and taking suggestions and comments from your audience and getting immediate feedback will make the whole public speech a more engaging experience. They are my favourites in 1-2-1 coaching even if they don't look slick. Who cares? They work. Of course, some see flipcharts as obsolete and old-fashioned. But in the age of PowerPoint, what better way is there for your presentation to stand out from the rest?

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