Public Speaking – Creative Visuals the Old-School Way


Before speakers used PowerPoint, there were overhead projectors, flip charts, handouts and white boards. Before that, there were slide projectors and movie projectors. Sometimes people used props.

Before that, there were chalkboards and before that, well, there were just speakers! And believe it or not, speakers were plenty effective, even without visuals.

There’s no doubt that visuals provide additional benefits to a presentation. According to “Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach” by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, presentation aids

“enhance understanding,” “enhance memory,” “help listeners organize ideas,” “help gain and maintain attention,” and “help illustrate a sequence of events or procedures.”

Read on for tips on effective and creative visual aids the low-tech, old-fashioned way.

1. Before the presentation

Flip charts

Write out your flip charts in advance (unless you’ll be writing down comments or questions from the audience). Leave one or two blank pages in between your prepared pages, in case you want to add something during the presentation. This also keeps your following pages from showing through.

Make sure your text is big enough for everyone in the room to see – letters should be 2-3″ tall, depending on how big the room is. Text should be in dark colors so your audience doesn’t have to strain to see

it. Using a pad with a grid and perforations ensures neat writing and tearing. And double-check your spelling before putting away your flip chart!

I like using the sticky flip chart paper; it’s like a giant Post-it® note that I can tear off and adhere to the wall. The page can be repositioned as necessary, and the chart can stand by itself on a tabletop. No

need for tape or an easel.

See Garr Reynolds’ resource list of flip chart tips:

Handouts, part 1

Prepare only what is necessary to recap your main points or give additional resources, such as a copy of a magazine article or a list of websites or books to use for further research on your topic.

You may want to include a simple marketing document, such as a brochure, but don’t go overboard with marketing materials – including your name and contact information at the bottom of your handouts should be enough. And keep your documents simple and easy to read; don’t overwhelm your audience with too much reading material.

Print handouts on colored papers to differentiate each one for your audience and to eliminate the monotony of all-white handouts.

Signs, posters or large images

You may want to give your audience something to look at as they are entering the room and taking their seats. A poster-size photograph or other striking image that relates to your topic is a great visual to get

everyone on the same page. Just make sure to cover it or take it down before you start speaking, so the audience isn’t distracted by it.

2. During the presentation


Props can add interest and humor to your presentation, and help illustrate your points, as long as you don’t overuse them and you practice before your presentation.

Props can be items put around the room for audience members to use or enjoy before or during the presentation, such as candy, snacks, puzzles, or toys. These work best in interactive workshop settings,

where you are expecting your audience to be active.

Props can help you remember certain parts of your presentation without using notes, such as an item you pick up to demonstrate a particular point. Props, as a visual cue, also help your audience remember

what you talked about. For example, one speaker, whose topic was compulsive shopping, delivered her handouts to her audience in mini shopping bags.

Instead of a pie chart, how about cutting up a real pie? Or put on several hats to signify different sections of your presentation. Props don’t have to be complicated. Any prop used well can add a special touch

to your presentation. Make sure the prop can be seen by everyone in the room, and don’t bring it out until you’re ready to use it.


Is there something related to your topic that you can demonstrate as part of your presentation? Can you make an origami crane, or do a short craft project, or demonstrate how to re-pot a plant?

Demonstration is a great teaching tool if you are clear, concise, and give well-organized instructions.

Handouts, part 2

Save handouts till the end or, if you need your audience to follow along on a document, only hand out the one they need at the time they need it. Handouts are distracting and take the focus off of the speaker, so plan carefully when you’re going to give them out.

3. After the presentation

Ideally, you have a table at the back of the room where you can display additional handouts, books, brochures, business cards, and other resources for your audience. Make a vertical display board for this

table that includes photos, maps, graphs, charts, text, and other visuals to grab your audience as they walk in and as they are leaving the room. This is a good way to display complex information that wasn’t

appropriate to go over in detail during the presentation.

Using a variety of visual techniques helps you grab and keep your audience’s attention, and it helps them retain what they learn. Try something new: visuals don’t have to be high-tech to be high-impact.

Leave a Reply