Have you ever watched a TED Talk? Or an Ignite speech? or a PechaKucha 0r a Pecha Kucha or a Pikachu – ok, that last one wasn’t the right pronunciation at all, but every time I talk to people about it, I hear this, I figure I should acknowledge it. All of these presentations include visual aids. Actually, they include a slide deck. Are visuals aids limited to the electronic?
Pathways Level 3 elective speech projects cover both – the physical and the electronic. Because both have their place, even if the physical is losing ground.
Let me tell you about a corporate club in my district. The company uses Toastmasters as part of the sales training program. It’s been a significant part of their program for more than a decade. Whenever I visit, every presentation has a slide deck. I think it’s required – by them, not by Toastmasters.
I have seen some great presentations there. Bridges stuck in the up position for a year? Seen it. Exploding snowman? Seen it. What I think was a still? I think I’ve seen it. The variety of presentations in this company was wide and fascinating as the sales trainees learned basic speaking skills and how to create an interesting and compelling slide deck.
But, and maybe it’s a little geeky of me, but the room was also filled with models of their products – and I was itching to get my hands on those things and figure out what they were!
Let’s talk about
Creating Visual Aids
A physical prop is incredibly valuable in a small presentation. I’d say under 10, under 20 if you have duplicates. If you’re in sales, you know putting your product in your customer’s hands helps to close a sale.
You probably know this, but… you can’t trust technology. I walked into a meeting room recently with a slide deck all prepared. I had a copy on a thumb drive in my hand. I had it uploaded on a Google Drive. I was ready. Unfortunately, the equipment wasn’t.
Fortunately for me, I had intended to read a quotation from a book and brought it with me – so I still had a prop. And you know, it worked. I could show the book, cite its history, and quote the author.
I was covered because I’d diversified my options: in hand, on the Internet and on a storage thumb drive. When giving a speech where you put all of your work into one location – what are you going to do if the tech fails?
Because it’s not a matter of if… it’s a matter of when.
Even if you’re using your own machinery – tech fails. Usually at the worst possible moment.
Therefore, if you’re going to use technology, I strongly urge you to get into the presentation room early so you can try to get everything set up quickly and be prepared.
The Creating Visual Aids project in Level 3 does talk about different visual aids besides the slide deck (they save that for the other project.) Flip charts, white boards, posters, videos… the big items are covered.
Visual Aids Handouts
They also mention handouts. This tool is increasingly problematic. First, when do you distribute them? Second, what do you put on them? Third, what do you say when people want it in an electronic file?
I think handouts are pretty useful. I give a 2 hour presentation on writing and wouldn’t think about not using a handout to reinforce the material. But is giving a printed slide deck the right answer? More and more, I’m thinking no. It’s a trap that keeps the audience’s eyes down – not meeting yours. I’ve started creating worksheets that cover the materials and let people fill in the blanks for shorter presentations. It reduces the amount of paper but still gives them something to hold onto and take notes on it. It does increase the amount of work, but I think of it as reinforcement of my message and my speech, so I think it’s worth it.
Using Presentation Software
The variety of platforms – Apple vs. PC vs. desktop vs mobile – is only the start of the challenges of using presentation software. I’d love to say I’ve got a solution – but honestly, no one has. I tend to default to making my presentations in a graphics software, import them into Google and use their Google Slides option. I’m also partial to those projectors that let you plug your thumb drive into the back and run from there – avoiding the entire internet problem altogether. But there are no good, consistent solutions. So we all suffer.
Do we have to suffer? Pre-planning helps a lot. Find out what the venue offers and prepare accordingly.
Trying to prepare accordingly can be a problem – if your Toastmasters venue doesn’t have any options for you to practice with during the meeting.
I’m not saying that you personally should go out and buy a projector (and maybe a laptop to go with it.) I’m not saying that you should ask your club to purchase any equipment.
What I will suggest is to be a bit creative. Do you know a location that does have what you need? Can you ask to use it? You don’t have to practice with a club around you – you can do it privately.
Practice helps you figure out what’s working with your speech and what’s distracting. This is hard to do. How do you assess how well a slide deck works?
Designing a Slide Deck
Designing a good deck comes after writing your speech. There are a few general rules – the 30/30 rule: 30 point font and no more than 30 words. Other deck designers opt for no words at all – just images. I tend toward that myself. Minimizing the reading does stop the distraction of the audience.
I think the key to creating a deck is the same as writing a speech: know your end goal for the audience. Then you’ll know what you need to add to your speech. But the deck can’t carry your message. That’s still your responsibility s0 that if you can’t use the technology, your audience will still get your message. So how to assess its value? By judging if your slides motivate your audience. Do they help the audience understand your message better – or are they just entertaining them while you finish your speech?
So why has Toastmasters divided Visual Aids from Using Presentation Software?
I’m not sure, but I’m going to speculate.
Visual aids are fun.
I once used a red scarf as a belt to hold an imaginary sword, a veil for a woman in mourning, and rag to wipe off sweat all in one speech. I might have pulled off the speech without it – but it was way more fun to use it. Maybe we don’t use props enough since the projector and computer have come along. How many ways have you used a single prop?
A slide deck is a very technical tool. For most speakers, a slide presentation isn’t an option. The equipment or the venue won’t accommodate them. The show must go on and as a speaker, it’s your job to convey the message anyway.
It’s likely you’ve heard of TED Talks and seen how prevalent the slide deck is. But it’s also very confining. You don’t have the options to go with the flow from the audience. I guess the question is: do you need a slide deck? Or are you using it as a crutch and intend to read off of it? Please tell me you’re not going to do that!
When do you need to use a slide deck? When you’re speaking to a large crowd with a complicated message. Or giving a TED Talk or Ignite or Pecha Kucha. Other than that – reconsider. It may be better for you to skip it.
Next week, we finally wrap up the Level 3 electives with the career builder speeches.