The Basics

What exactly is a visual aid, anyway?

  • Google definition: An item of illustrative matter, such as a film, slide, or model, designed to supplement written or spoken information so that it can be understood more easily.
  • Merriam Webster definition: an instructional device (as a chart, map, or model) that appeals chiefly to vision; especially : an educational motion picture or filmstrip.
  • Our “real-life” definition: A visual aid is a sensory enhancement to an oral presentation—a visualization of the information, meaning, and connotation of spoken word. It is a tool that should compliment a presentation—not dominate it.

So why do visual aids matter?

  • Our eyes allow us to see the world; with this extraordinary sense comes a magnification of thought and meaning that cannot be provided by words alone. Visual aids provide emphasis on the words being spoken in a speech by representing them in a creative and unique manner that adds depth, understanding, and interaction to any good presentation. They allow you, as a speaker, to dynamically engage the audience in multiple sensory dimensions, not just aurally.
  • Imagine watching a movie with the script in your hands; or watching a TV show episode for the 30th time and knowing everything that was going to happen; or watching a movie with subtitles directly in the middle of the screen. These examples show just how powerful visual components are to an audience, and how misused visual aids poorly affect a presentation.

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