The Value of Speaking with Visual Aids – Alice J. Wisler

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Just two days before my event at the local library, the librarian called to touch base. “Now, you are the one who wanted to do a PowerPoint presentation, right?”

Huh? Clearly she had me confused with another presenter. I had no plans for a PowerPoint, but the second I opened my mouth, I heard myself saying, “Sure. I’d like to do that.”

For two days, I rushed to create a presentation in connection with my fifth novel’s release. Although I’d created a few PowerPoint presentations before for various teaching engagements, I’d never thought to do one for a novel.

Luckily, since my novel has to do with leaving the Amish lifestyle, my work was easy. I had a topic. From there I gathered photos of farmlands, buggies, shoo-fly pie, bonnets and even a pair of jeans for contrast. (A pair of jeans are on the top of a young Amish boy or girl’s list when he/she enters modern society.) I added a few sentences, some humor and soon I had a set of fifteen slides I was happy with.

What is the value of creating a visual aid such as a grouping of slides on a topic? Here is what I learned from the evening I was speaking at the library and what I’ve discovered from other events since then.

A set of slides:

Provides visual stimuli – Attendees enjoy having something to view besides just the speaker to hold their interest. When you have the attention of your audience, you have hit the gold mine. They are all yours which means they are listening and actively able to participate in your event.

Helps you stay on target – As a speaker, if you tend to get off track or a ramble, a PowerPoint can force you to stay on track. It also keeps you looking up and out instead of down at your notes.

Makes you creative – Having to come up with a unique presentation with visuals keeps your creative juices flowing. It also helps you to learn your material in a fresh way so that you will be more animated and informative upon presentation. If you’ve said the same speech over and over throughout the years, having a new set of slides will keep your work fresh.

Causes you to be remembered – It’s true, the majority of us are visual learners! According the U.S. Department of Labor, “…studies suggest that three days after an event, people retain 10% of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.” I can still remember the slides a fellow speaker used last summer and some of her witty captions. Why? Because the images have stuck in my mind.

Now that I have hopefully convinced you of the value and effectiveness of visual aids, I have to insert a few words of caution.

Don’t be a visual presenter only. In other words, remember that you still need to go over your speech, be prepared, and not wing it. Your slides are an added bonus, not the only source of conveying information. You still need to master your clear and strong speaking voice. And you still need to comb your hair.

Use visual aids to support your presentation, not steal from it. I was at a seminar where the author overused comic strips on the overhead projector. She managed to cram five Peanuts comic strips onto the screen every two minutes. I like Snoopy and Linus, but this was overkill!

What if you don’t have a computer with Microsoft’s PowerPoint? You are not out of luck. Think about other visual aids. If you are an author of fiction, ponder a bit on the characters in your book. Some authors dress like a particular character. I was at a conference where the speaker used a colorful hand puppet to make her point. I could have brought a hand puppet since the girl in my novel carries one with her. Maybe I’ll do that next time.

The lesson is to be creative!

Ponder!

Let your presentation create a buzz about you and your book so that you will sell more books and even be invited back to speak!

Alice J. Wisler is an author of five Southern novels, workshop presenter, speaker, and blogger. She loves creating visual aids for her presentations. Although she has yet to be courageous enough to dress as one of her novel’s characters, she feels that day will be arriving soon. Learn more about her work at her website: http://www.alicewisler.com.