How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Presentational aids are items other than the words of a speech that are used to support the intent of the speaker. In particular, they can be visual aids, audio aids or other supporting technology.
Visual aids include projectors, physical objects,. photographs, diagrams, charts and so on. Audio aids include music, conversations, recordings, etc. Technology that can be used includes computers, lights, microphones and recorders.
Actually, the name 'presentational aid' is not the best description as, whilst they do help the presenter, their main purpose is to help the audience.
Whilst the words you use and the way that you say them are of central importance, you can gain attention and engage the interest of your audience by using various other devices.
There are also additional benefits, including giving you confidence and addressing different learning styles of your audience.
Presentational aids should not just be thrown in, sprinkled like confetti at a wedding. Their purpose and value should be first understood and then used appropriately to enhance the audience's experience (and not just overwhelm them).
There is a wide range of presentational aids that can be used. Here are a few.
Physical things can be very useful and create a very visceral impact as you use them as direct examples or as metaphors for points you want to make.
Photographs provide a picture of reality and are easily included in slides where they can be used illustrate a point or just provide a background. They are good for illustrating action, evoking emotion and more. When you show a person doing something, your audience may well empathize with the image, putting themselves in the place of that person.
A disadvantage of photos is that the important detail can be lost so it may be important to ensure they are projected on a large screen.
It is also important with photographs of people that any legal constraints, such as privacy laws, are considered. If in doubt, start by considering whether the person may or may not be happy to be in your photograph. Whilst it is often ok to have people in the background, when they are the subject and when you are using them to promote something, then you may be on difficult ground.
Diagrams illustrate concepts and ideas by using shapes rather than words. Shapes can have different internal angles and use color with specific effect, such as using red to make something stand out or imply danger. They can be positioned relative to one another for subtle effect, for example higher up or more central often means 'more important'.
As well as projected, a diagram may be drawn on a flipchart or whiteboard. Whilst not as neat as a computer diagram, this appears more spontaneous and can be used to enhance your own credibility.
Graphs and charts are diagrams that interpret data, visually. They include line graph, bar charts, pie charts, radar diagrams and so on.
Graphs are often much better than tables at showing meaning and communicating the value of data. They do this best by such as showing how some numbers are relatively larger than others, how numbers change over time, and so on.
Non-numeric charts can show a number of different things, in particular where individual items have distinct relationships with one another.
Flowcharts show the relationships between different activities. Organizational charts show who reports to who. Network diagrams show many-to-many relationships.
Maps are variants of charts that are used to show where things are relative to one another. They may be to scale or simply relative (such as the famous London Underground map).
Maps can of course be geographic, but they can also be any form of showing how things relate and how to get from A to B, for example you could produce a figurative map of how to go from an inexperienced speaker to a skilled presenter.
Here are a few tips to help you make your presentational aids work well for you.
Keep them simple
If you make your presentational aids complex then they are less likely to be understood. Remember that your audience have to 'get it' quite quickly so the things you are using should be very simple and need little interpretation.
Make them visible
If you are in a large hall, them something small in your hand will not be seen and so have less impact. Big things, whether physical or projected are much easier to see. They also have a greater impact.
The presentational aid is not an end in itself. It is to support a point you are making, so ensure you clearly connect the two together, revealing the purpose of the aid with due clarity.
Talk to the audience
Present to the audience, not to the presentational aid. It is a common trap for speakers to look at the aid not at the people to whom they are speaking.
Magicians practice endlessly at sleight of hand to make their tricks seem effortless. You probably do not need to practice quite as much, though you should take time to be comfortable with the presentational aids you are using.
Just as the magician pulls the rabbit out of a hat, so also can you make the appearance (and disappearance) of your presentational aids an event in itself.