Successfully Using Visual Aids

in Your Presentation



(Portions of this material has been obtained and used with permission from: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Presenting Effective Presentations with Visual Aids, May 10, 2005,


The Importance of Using Visual Aids


Visual aids can help you to reach your objectives by providing emphasis to whatever is being said. Clear pictures multiply the students' level of understanding of the material presented, and they should be used to reinforce your message, clarify points, and create excitement.

Visual aids involve your students and require a change from one activity to another: from hearing to seeing. With pictures, the concepts or ideas that you present are no longer simply words - but words plus images. If students don't clearly grasp the spoken word, a visual may help them to better absorb information. Visuals can help to make complex information more understandable. They provide a change from just listening, and pictures typically stimulate interest more easily than words.


Because visuals enable you to appeal to more than one sense at the same time, the students' understanding and retention level is increased. This graph cites the effectiveness of visual aids on students' retention. Notice that retention of information three days after a presentation or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means rather than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone.1

In addition to helping students better retain information, the use of good visual aids in a presentation impact how the presenter is perceived.

  1. A study conducted by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M) at the University of Minnesota, it was concluded that people who use visual aids are 43% more persuasive than those who don't. The study also established that visuals can improve:

  • communication effectiveness

  • student's perceptions of the presenter

  • speakerís confidence2

    1. Several studies conducted by educational researchers showed that the average speaker who uses visual aids will come across as better prepared, more credible, more dynamic, and more persuasive than a speaker who does not use visual aids.1

    The use of visual aids, then, can be essential to all presentations. Without them, the impact of your presentation may leave the students shortly after your presentation. By preparing a presentation with visual aids that reinforce your main ideas, you will likely reach your students far more effectively.

    1. Lucas, SE., The Art of Public Speaking, McGraw-Hill, 2001
    2. Vogel, DR., Dickson, GW., and Lehman, JA., Persuasion and the Role of Visual Presentation Support: The UM/3M Study, 1986






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