Effective Use of Visual Aids

Any presentation stands to benefit from well-placed, effective visual aids. By giving your audience something to look at, you can help them understand difficult concepts, reinforce key points, and keep them focused on your presentation.

While there is no concrete evidence supporting the claim that people remember what they see and do more than they remember the things they hear, the fact that there were an estimated 115.6 million television sets in the U.S. in 2013 (and millions of video-enabled computers, smartphones and tablets on top of that) is probably enough proof that people are drawn to things they can see.

For that reason, you need to make using effective visual aids a part of your presentations. The trouble is, for a lot of people, the first thing they think of when the term “visual aid” is thrown around is Powerpoint.

Powerpoint is Good, However…

Don’t get me wrong, Powerpoint has its merits. And sometimes it can even be the most appropriate visual aid. But this popular Microsoft presentation software is quite often used as a crutch that kills a presentation instead of enhancing it.

For that reason, we’ve come up with 5 examples of good visual aids you should consider using for your next presentation that are not Powerpoint. Some may not be practical, but I bet if you think creatively, each one of these types of visual aids can be cleverly used to keep your presentation interesting. And who knows? Maybe something your audience sees will be what they remember most about your presentation.

Posters and photographs—The name Kim Phuc may not ring a bell, but I’ll bet you’ve seen the photo of her running naked down the street in 1972 after an aerial napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph showed us the very real and horrific human suffering caused by war, and reminded us that it’s not just soldiers on the battlefield. How did you feel the first time (and every time) you saw it? A photo or a poster can be a great visual aid to invoke feelings from your audience.

Video—Let’s be honest: People love video. Aside from the more than 34 hours of TV the average American watches each week, studies have shown that at least 40 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 watch videos more than 10 times per week. There’s a reason YouTube has more than one billions users— and why 300 hours of video are uploaded the popular social media channel every minute. Find or create a video that will appeal to you audience and you’ll have no problem keeping their attention.

Models—Three-dimensional models can be a very beneficial visual aid, particularly when you’re dealing with architecture. Sophisticated 3D software has largely replaced the use of miniature models by bigger companies, which is why bringing one to your next presentation would set you apart.

People—Having a live model is great if you need help with demonstrations. You can use an assistant to demonstrate how easily a product works, for example, or you can use them to model clothing or demonstrate a dance. To really grab your audience’s attention, pick a volunteer from the group. It’s a sure-fire way to get them worked up and take interest in what’s happening.

Choose Wisely

The type of visual aid you choose will of course depend on the topic of your presentation as well as your audience.  If you are limited to text-based visual aids, consider alternatives to Powerpoint, such as whiteboards or infographics.

When you’re trying to choose which visual aid to use, think about the information you believe is the most valuable or important for the audience to know, and then try to think up creative way to present that information in the most visually appealing way. This is one of the great advantages of using visual aids.

For more great presentation tips, stop by our Resources section. We also cover visual aids in our presentation skills training workshops. What is your favorite alternative to PowerPoint? Share with our audience in the comment section below and if you enjoyed this post, sharing is caring!


  1. Britanica says:

    Very good tips right here. I honestly never thought to use people in a live presentation but that makes so much sense. It gives people something to actually connect with that is true to life instead of a still picture or video. Going to share this with some friends. Excellent read thank you!

  2. I wish the world would ban PowerPoint! I’ve yet to see a presentation with it that didn’t nearly put me to sleep!

  3. Wendy Wilson says:

    Great alternatives to Powerpoint. I’m going to try a few of them for sure.

  4. Sam Anson says:

    Great alternatives offered up here.

  5. L. Lincoln says:

    Everyone falls back on Powerpoint because it’s easy. This article gives some great ideas on how to be different.

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