The Role of Visual Aids

Written by river lin
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The Role of Visual Aids
Visual aids can help improve an audience's comprehension and retention of your message. (business presentation image by robert fori from

The ultimate goal of visual aids is to make a presentation better than a traditional lecture style of presentation in which the speaker fills the time and space with the spoken word. Within this overriding role, visual aids play the role of enhancing the package, supporting the learning, unifying differences, encouraging participation and clarifying the information.

Enhance a Verbal Presentation

A basic verbal presentation is extremely limiting. You should think of a presentation as a skeleton: just as an outline of your message has to be filled in with full sentences and supporting information and examples, a basic presentation is bare and needs to be enhanced with visual aids. Visual aids serve the role of completing a presentation with examples, artefacts, questions, interactive activities and more. The role of visual aids is to move a presentation from basic information to a complete package that brings the information to life through colours, exciting examples and activities, movement and visual images that make the presentation memorable.

Support Different Learning Styles

People learn in a variety of different ways. Only a part of what we learn and retain is taken in through our hearing. Visual aids support different learning styles by matching the verbal presentation of the message with images (visual learners); charts and graphs that facilitate questions and answers (audio learners); and hands-on activities that encourage audience participation (tactile). A simple worksheet to encourage audience members to take notes is an example of a visual aid that serves the role of addressing different learning styles.

Bridge Diversity Among the Audience

Audience members come to a presentation with diverse backgrounds in experience and personal knowledge. Visual aids help to ensure that everyone has the same background information that informs the premise of your presentation. In other words, never assume that everyone in the audience knows what they need to know to be at the same starting point for your presentation. Also, never assume they all share the same values or opinions. Visual aids can help bridge the differences among your audience members so that they start with a common foundation of background knowledge.

Encourage Audience Participation

Visual aids serve to encourage audience participation. Visual aids help the audience to engage with the material in the form of engaging note-taking, partner or small group discussion, Q & A, or some problem-solving activity. The role of visual aids in this case is to take the focus of attention off the presenter and place it on the content of the message. This is a very effective way to ensure that your message is more completely understood and retained longer.

Comprehension and Retention

There are many reasons why people may not fully understand what is being spoken during a presentation. They may have a short attention span and their minds may wander off to another subject; they may not hear everything being said; noise interferences may compromise their comprehension; or other interruptions or limitations may be a barrier to their comprehension. Visual aids help clarify and reinforce the spoken message. The combination of hearing and seeing the message more than doubles comprehension and retention.

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