Visual Aids: Make Your Speech Visually Stimulating

Engaging the Senses What’s the point of visual aids? I think that it’s about engaging more of your audience’s senses than just hearing you speak.

Engaging the Sensesvisual aids

What’s the point of visual aids?

I think that it’s about engaging more of your audience’s senses than just hearing you speak.  A visual aid adds a layer to your speech that your voice or body can’t add.

It’s not just about handouts or PowerPoint images.  Your goal is to bring your audience to a different place than they were before you began – and sometimes, an image or an object can do it faster and more effectively than words.  Pictures are worth a thousand words?  So then might a good visual aid.

Better than just one sense, try to engage many.  When I had to give a presentation about Toastmasters club officer roles, I stopped by a local bakery and bought my visuals – bread rolls.  The smells captured my audience as much as the sight of blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls.  Yes, I will stoop that low for a good pun.

What’s a Good Visual Aid?

Is anything you bring onto the stage with you a visual aid?  I wouldn’t argue with you if that’s what you said.  I’ve seen a speaker bring a piece of exercise equipment that lets him hang upside down as a prop for his speech.  (Think about what I wrote.  Wouldn’t a picture have done a better job than me explaining it?  I couldn’t find one!)

A good visual is big enough for the audience to see and understand.  That’s pretty much it.  This is why so many people go for the PowerPoint presentations – they can use little objects but make them big enough for the back row to see.

I prefer color to pale or pastel visual aids, but that may just be my inclination to bright colors.  If I needed a ping-pong ball, I wouldn’t go out of my way to find a colored one.

Distracting Visual Aids

A good visual aid is not distracting to the audience when it’s not in use.  Don’t carry it when you’re not using it.  If it’s unstable, like a ball on a table, then figure out a way to prevent it from rolling and upstaging your speech.  There’s an old theater story about an actress who was fighting with her co-star.  She entered the scene with a full glass of wine in her hand, and when she left the stage, she strategically placed the goblet on the edge of a table, where the audience couldn’t miss it.  When would it fall?  No one paid any attention to the actress’s co-star – they all waited for the wine glass to fall.  It never did – she’d prepped with a piece of tape on the table top that would hold the glass in place.  Make sure your visual aid doesn’t upstage you!

Using a box to store your visual aids can be a way to create curiosity in your audience.  Decorate the box in some way to market your message – don’t let any opportunity to influence your audience to get away from you.

Regarding Memorization:

I recommend Andrea Ambam’s excellent, winning speech from the National Speech and Debate Association 2014 competition.  Remember that the NSDA standards are not Toastmasters’ practices, so this speech isn’t in our usual format.  Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful speech!

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Research Your Credibility

How Your Audience Perceives Youresearch your credibility

Research your audience before you get up to speak.  I think most audiences can be classified as friendly, uninformed, or antagonistic.  A Toastmasters meeting should be friendly  and open to listening to your presentation.  This kind of audience is the best kind for trying out new material and getting evaluations of your speech skills.

Other friendly audiences are likely to be ones where your topic is perceived as valuable and maybe even worth paying to hear.

The other end of the spectrum is the antagonistic audience.  I’m recording this podcast in 2016, possibly the year of the most antagonistic political campaigns of my life.  It almost feels like some people are making disruption of public speakers into a sport.  College campuses see speakers disinvited to events or when a speaker comes, a variety of people might show up to interrupt or shut down the presentation.  Antagonistic audiences will challenge your speaking skills with heckling and perhaps even join you on the stage.

Between those two is the audience you probably want to reach to inform or persuade.  Your presentation skills will have the most influence with them.

Research Citations in Speech

How do you make a citation in a speech?*  It can sound awkward if you’re not prepared.

“According to…” is a common way to add a citation to a speech.  It’s smooth and simple when you’re citing a person such as an author or an expert.

What if you’re citing the expert’s report?  Trickier, but still can be done with a quick mention of the publication – if it’s printed.  If you find the information on the internet,

If you find the information on the internet, you may have a problem.  You’ve got to use a credible source  (How to find a reliable website may help) but if you’re quoting something from Huffington Post or Wikipedia, see if you can find the original source.  Wiki usually has a link to its sources (yes, you have to check those too) but Huffington Post, while it often posts reprints, does sometimes print original material.  You need to be careful because you don’t want to lose your credibility with your audience.

Credibility – Incredibly Easy to Lose

The Carrot Suppression Conspiracy?  Completely false.  I made it up.  But here are some links to some of the things I talked about in the podcast.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson misquotes George W. Bush about 9/11

Malone University President Resigns over Plagiarism 

It’s your reputation on the line here.  Protect your good name by treating sources carefully and reliably reporting them in your presentation.


If you are using handouts, you might be able to say, “Please see my handout for my research, sources, and citations.”

If you’re giving a speech with a handout in a Toastmasters meeting, ask the club sergeant-at-arms to assist you if you decide not to have the material on the audience’s seats or on the table before the meeting starts.  The sergeant-at-arms can distribute your handouts during your presentation and make sure that everyone gets one.

Speech Contests

It’s almost always speech contest season with Toastmasters.  If you don’t want to compete, there are plenty of other tasks that a speech contest requires.  Talk to your club president to find out who is serving as the Contest Chair and volunteer to help.

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Want to Improve Your Public Speaking? Consider Toastmasters.

Human usually learn to talk by the age of 3, so why do we also learn a fear of public speaking? If this describes you, then maybe Toastmasters is for you.

What Is Toastmasters?Toastmasters 101 Podcast Competent Communicator Public Speaking

Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches and supports public speaking and leadership skills.

Why is public speaking important?

At some point, whether it’s nurture or nature, people develop a fear of public speaking.  Why?

Do you want to develop public speaking and leadership skills?

Then what you’re looking for may be Toastmasters.

Toastmasters has developed a method to help you overcome those fears.  Over 90 years, Toastmasters has refined a method that can help you as quickly as you want to go.  You will get a manual called the Competent Communicator with 10 projects in it.  Each of those projects is a speech you will prepare and give at a club meeting, and then you will receive an evaluation of your presentation before the end of the meeting.

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to improve your speaking…

Public Speaking Leads to Leadership

Communication skills may be called the foundation of leading. If you want to be a leader, you must develop communication skills.

Since communication and leadership are so intertwined, Toastmasters provides leadership training.

If you’re ready to come and explore your future, you can find a local club by going to and clicking on the Find A Club button.  You’ll be welcome to join us.

Thanks for joining us on Toastmasters101.  We’ll be focusing on every project in the Competent Communicator manual in our future podcasts.  Instead of repeating what’s in the manual, we’ll focus on other insights into the projects.  Our next podcast – Breaking the Ice – the first speech!  Talk about myself?  What should I say? We’ll give you a few suggestions how to put that first speech together.

If you like our podcast, would you mind going to iTunes and giving us an evaluation (aka rating)?  We’d appreciate hearing from you as we talk public speaking and leadership.

Our music is from
Cool Blast Kevin MacLeod (
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