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Training Course Outlines
Assertive Communication Skills
Creating a great
Using Visual Aids Effectively
All of us have been there. You are watching a presentation at work, and the presenter puts up a slide for which he immediately apologises. He says something like, "Pardon the eye chart," with a little laugh. The "eye chart" reference is because the print on the chart is illegible unless you are sitting in the very front row. The presenter painstakingly explains what each symbol, line, or bar means. And he seems to expect his audience to understand and follow his laborious explanations. Why do public speakers do this? Well, most of us really do believe that a picture's worth a thousand words, and it is - but only if it's the right picture.
There are a number of really effective ways to use visual aids in presentations. Why, then, do some presenters make the "eye chart" mistake, and other basic mistakes you will have seen before? In some cases, the presenter himself has seen many, many faulty presentations. He may assume that presentations contain illegible slides. He may also have decided to lift a slide right out of an annual report, or some other relevant document. While the document looks great and is understandable on the printed page, it just doesn't translate well to an overhead or projected slide of some kind. And the message? It's lost, of course.
One of the quickest ways you can improve your public speaking is to improve your physical presentation itself. Your speech topic might be right on, your body language could be excellent, you have conquered your fear of public speaking at last, and you know you have a good message to communicate. But if your presentation itself is difficult to follow, all your other skill sets will fall by the way side.
So how do you make sure your visual aids enhance rather than detract from your message? There are some simple tips for public speaking and some public speaking basics which, if you follow them, will greatly improve your presentation. First, be very clear as to how long your presentation should be. Once you know that, determine who your audience is and how much knowledge of the topic they have. For example, if you are an expert, and they are not experts, you will have to be very conscious of how much detail you really should include in your presentation. Third, take a moment to make sure your slides are legible from any seat in the room. And finally, figure out how to "hook" your audience. Hooking your audience is often done quite easily with visual aids.
Let's assume your presentation is on how to prevent Identity Theft. There are reams of statistics available in the research about identity theft. You could acquire dozens of charts and documents which are in the public domain and use them in your public speaking about Identity Theft. But your audience is the young adult group. They are just starting out, and many of them may not be sophisticated about the terminology which rolls so easily off your tongue. You will lose them quickly with the complex charts and slides you have access to. Yet it's a critical topic, and one the group has asked you to explain to them. So you should begin where your audience is, with the basics.
The statistics on Identity Theft are actually quite alarming. By personalising the statistics, you can make them come alive for your group. Talk to a couple of your audience members ahead of time, and get their permission to use them to introduce your topic. If your research shows that 1 in 20 people will be victims of identity theft in the coming year, explain that 2 of the people in your 40-person audience may well learn first hand about identity theft in the coming year. If you've arranged with Mike and Laura to allow themselves to be portrayed as the two people who will have their identities stolen, you may be able to make your points even more real. For example, Mike, who happens to be your nephew, has been saving for 2 years for the car of his dreams. But if he is a victim of identity theft, his credit is quickly ruined, and that car is no where in sight. And Laura has just graduated from college, the proud owner of a newly minted accounting degree. But, since Laura will be applying for jobs in the financial industry, she will quickly find herself out of consideration because her credit checks are coming back with very serious misuse of credit on them. Even though it was not Laura who misused the credit, Laura is the victim of the misuse along with the stores who have been presented bogus credit cards or fake cheques. You have just vastly improved your chances that your audience will remember what you are saying about this topic because you have made it real to them by explaining what impact identity theft could have on their day-to-day lives. Believe me, this is far more effective than an "eye chart" of statistics.
Now that you have the attention of your audience, continue to move forward with your use of visual aids as you meet your public speaking objectives. How about a slide of a mail box? You could show that photo and then ask what a mail box has to do with identity theft. Your speaker notes will remind you that a huge percentage of identity thieves steal mail and are able to put enough information together about you to effectively apply for credit in your name.
Next, try a picture of a computer monitor, and ask this young group how many of them are on line on a daily basis. My bet is that all of them are. Spend some time explaining what on-line "phishing" scams are about. (In case you are not aware of what "phishing" is, the perpetrators of this kind of theft send very credible-looking emails to their victims asking for "verification" of certain personal information. Then the thieves use this information to apply for credit, and even to tap into bank accounts).
Another slide could be a photo of a telephone, with the same kinds of warnings you discussed for internet usage. You could also show a slide of your local cash machine, and make sure your audience knows how crooks with camera phones can actually photograph or film your pin number as you enter it! As you can see, the visual aides you could use to make your topic come alive are limited only by your imagination.
Now, think about how the speech I've described would be received as opposed to a more traditional presentation full of charts, graphs, and statistics. Depending on your audience and your speech topic, you can make even non-so-exciting speech topics come to life and really mean something to your audience. The key is to put yourself in their shoes. What about this topic will be meaningful to them, how can you grab their attention at the beginning of your speech, and how can you make sure your speech is persuasive enough to do the good it can do. If you've answered those questions correctly, you are on your way to an excellent public speaking experience both for you and for your audience.