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Presentation Skills: Delivery Skills, Using Visuals

Use Visuals Like a Pro.

When you're presenting, your slides should not be the feature attraction. That role is played by you. Here are some tips on the correct way to present your visuals

Where to stand.
One of the more common questions about presenting with slides is where the speaker should stand. The answer: stand to your audience's left (stage right,) with the visual to your left. This lets them move their eyes easily from you to the visual as they read, from left to right. A better position for the speaker is actually center stage with the screen to the speaker's left (audience right.) That way, the speaker remains the center of attention. Often, though, the requirements of a large room end up pushing the speaker to one side.

Using a pointer.
It may be heresy to some, but here goes: pointers almost always detract from a presentation. They serve more as a prop for the presenter than an aid to the listener.

Why are pointers a bad idea? Because if you're using a laser pointer, you're looking at the visual instead of into the eyes of your listeners. Besides, it's just about impossible to hold a pointer steady without having it flap about, which makes for yet another distraction.

These days, there's not much need to use a pointer anyway, since today's graphics software lets you use arrows, circles, highlights, underscores and other tools to focus your audience on the most important part of your visual.

Show the visual only when you're actually using it.
Needless advice? Not really. Many speakers, unfortunately, will put up a visual before discussing what's on it. Instead, you should introduce a visual before you put it up, by making the key point it supports. That's because, when a visual first appears, your listeners will try to decipher it and won't hear the point you're trying to make. Once the visual is up, it should reinforce the point you've just made.

It's not about you.
When you're showing a visual, be sure to keep your attention focused on your listeners. You're talking to them, after all, and not to a set of visuals. Of course, you can glance at a visual as you explain or describe it. You can call attention to some item that's on it. But again, you should not read it word for word.

Practice. Practice. Practice.
It can't be overstated: preparation and practice are key.

Allow plenty of time to design your visuals, making sure they support and reinforce your key points. Make sure they meet the proper design standards. (See our article, Design Your Visuals for Maximum Impact, in this issue.) Also make sure you've integrated them logically and seamlessly into your overall presentation.

Practice using your visuals. Practice with the equipment you'll be using until you're completely comfortable with it. And practice, if at all possible, in front of a live audience. Choose a few people who can help you gauge the readability and effectiveness of your visuals.

It'll likely take more than one run-through. So practice as many times as you need. The more you rehearse, the more comfortable you'll be and the more credibility and authority you'll convey.

Finally, on the day of your presentation, arrive early enough to check out the room. If at all possible, run through your presentation. Test the equipment one more time, with the visuals you'll be using. Take every opportunity to get comfortable with the physical setting.

Master the critical technical and practical skills for using visuals effectively. Learn to control and focus your audience's attention. You can attend a presentations seminar or work privately with one of our consultants to make the most of your visual aids, your presentation technology, and your presentation space every time you address an important audience.


This Issue

To use visuals with maximum impact and minimal fuss, let our consultants help you raise your use of visual to the height of your thinking. Why not be that good? Call us for some one-on-one coaching; we'll come to your location to work with you or a group of colleagues. You can also attend one of our regularly scheduled seminars that will help you use visuals and build your overall presentation skills, honing your edge. For more information, follow the links or give us a call at 1-800-874-8278 or outside the US, +1 201 894 8200.

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