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10 Rules for Great Visual Aids

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Ten rules for making great visual aids

If you’ve read our blog post What are the Presentation Skills I Need? you already understand the importance of visual aids when you’re presenting. We’ve boiled down all of our advice about visual aids to ten golden rules – follow these, and you’ll always have your audience’s attention for the right reasons.

1. Do the slides only after you’ve completed your presentation plan and storyboard or you’ll have an overlong, text driven, linear presentation that will lead to dull, text driven slides.

2. If you’re working from an existing PowerPoint presentation, use that as your storyboard and add story structure, edit ruthlessly and remove visual, verbal and text clutter.

3. Use pictures and diagrams before words, and use words as little as possible. Use a short word instead of a long word wherever you can. Use only nouns, verbs and key phrases on your slides.

4. Do your best to stick to 3 words per bullet and 3 bullet-points per slide.

5. Explain jargon TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) and technical terms as you use them.

6. Use muted colours with no unnecessarily complex graphics or animations that can be seen in any light conditions.

7. Follow a strict slide format: every page is laid out exactly the same, making the whole presentation look very consistent.

8. Make sure that each slide has a single message, which is written out in the chart title and clearly supported by the words in the chart body.

9. Use occasional theoretical models & frameworks to structure information: time lines, force field analysis, evaluation of pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses .

10. Follow the example set by newspapers, TV and radio news bulletins.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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