Slide Decks & Visual Aids Tangibly Engage Listeners

Using slide decks in presentations

Slides and other visual aids can add interest and dimension to a presentation as it involves more sensual involvement from the audience. Too many slides can interpret the flow of the presentation and get the speaker off track, so knowing how many to include is important.

The use of visual aids in a presentation can add value for the audience. Sometimes a visual aid is intended to capture the audience’s attention, while in other instances, it is to inform or validate a statement made by the speaker. They are a great example of visual rhetoric.

Whether the visual aid you are contemplating using involves using PowerPoint slides, handouts, or something entirely different, the key is to make certain your presentation tool enhances the speech or presentation rather than detract from it.

What Types Of Visual Aids Can A Speaker Use To Add Depth To A Speech?


Sometimes, the best item for a visual aid is simply an item. When giving a business presentation on a new product or prototype, you may have that prop front and center for everyone to see. Another perspective on this is if you are giving a demonstration speech. When explaining the art of fly fishing, a fishing pole and other fishing-related items will help illustrate your point.

Showing an item serves as a reat visual aid


Handouts are another powerful tactic if you feel they would be helpful to the audience. The use of handouts varies depending on your goal. Do you want your audience to reach out to you later? Do you want them to have statistics and other information from your presentation on hand when they are thinking about the points you made without having to write them down?

Ensuring everyone leaves with a handout with your business information, product details, etc., may be helpful. Just be certain that the distribution of the handout does not detract from your speech. (You can control this with the timing of handing them out.)


You can hang posters in the presentation space, place them on an easel for easy access, or even use them on a giant flip chart. The benefit of this visual aid is that you do not need to rely on technology during the presentation.


Presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi, or Google Slides has practically erased the old-school need for projectors that display images from physical slides. While PowerPoint is an effective visual aid, you must use it powerfully to enhance your presentation.

PowerPoint slide deck


A whiteboard is just a modernized chalkboard used while public speaking to make a point in real time. Traditionally used in educational settings, sometimes they are helpful in a board room for a business presentation when something comes up that the team was not anticipating. The speaker can jot down the main points in real time. Poor handwriting can limit the usefulness of this tactic, however.

Which Type Of Visual Aid Makes The Biggest Impact On The Audience?

Determining the best visual aid to impact an audience depends on the key points you are trying to make. Ready for a powerful example of that? I was in a session listening to a police officer give a keynote address on the impact that a therapy dog has on people. As he went through his major bullet points, someone opened a door at the back of the room and let two dogs into the space. As the dogs made their way through the room, the dogs each paused by audience members who all bent down for a pet or soft word.

The officer kept talking as the dogs each settled in. At that point, the officer invited another speaker. When she identified herself as a school social worker, she began to make observations about how everyone had reacted to the animals. They then showed a video clip of one of the dogs walking through the school wearing a GoPro. Each time a student interacted with the therapy dog, a bell was rung. In two short minutes, while the dog walked the halls, there were 36 interactions with students.

Anyone who entered the room unsure of the power of a therapy dog left convinced.

Therapy dog

What Do Visual Aids Add To A Speech?

Visual aids are meant to add to your speech in a good way.

  • Clarify: Especially important if you are presenting something complicated, a well-made visual can clarify what you are trying to illustrate. A timeline, for example, can lay out information in a clean manner for the audience.
  •  Engage: Visuals such as photos or videos can engage in a manner that the spoken word can’t always achieve. They can add interest and illustrate a point.
  •  Emotional Response: Although this is similar to engagement, it is important enough to stand alone. Sometimes you want to bring forth a certain and specific emotion that words alone cannot create.
  •  Increase Understanding: Throughout a presentation, if used correctly, a well-placed visual will help your audience to see your points more clearly.
  •  Validate Points: A visual aid, such as a chart, pie graph, line graph, or other graphic, can validate something the speaker has said.

What Is A Slide Deck?

A slide deck is a set of slides put together as a visual element to aid in making a point during professional presentations. Sometimes people use terms like slide deck and PowerPoint interchangeably. Powerpoint is a software platform owned by Microsoft Corporation, so it is the name of a particular software. PowerPoint can be considered a type of slide deck presentation.

So what is a slide show? Is it the same as a slide deck? A slide show is usually put together for more informal purposes. You would use a slide deck in a more formal presentation design and a slide show to show vacation slides.

Slide deck templates for presentation

Biggest Mistakes Made With Visual Aids

It is easy to make mistakes using visual aids, so pay attention. When a person decides to use visual aids, it needs to be intentional and with a specific purpose.

The information on your slides can provoke questions from the audience. While you may want that interaction, spending too much time on questions can disrupt the timing of your speech.

Too Much Information

If you put too much information onto one slide, it can get overwhelming. Slides are meant to capture bullet points or main ideas that the speaker then expounds upon. Do not pack the page with images or words or an abundance of complex information.

Detracts from Speech

A visual aid can detract from the spoken words if you flip through them too quickly, put too much on a slide, or use them inefficiently. Remember that your aid should accompany and accentuate what you are saying. Do not let the visual dominate.

If you make the mistake of talking to the visual rather than the audience, that also detracts from your message. Keep your focus on those you are speaking to.

You should seldom read directly off of a slide.

Awkward Management

Managing the visual aid should be natural and easy. A key presentation skill is to either flip from one slide to the next in a natural way. Practice with your visual. Do not overdo transitions or add too much fancy animation to your show. Keep it simple.

Keep It Relevant

Don’t make the mistake of adding images, jokes, cartoons, etc., irrelevant to the presentation. Whatever you use should accompany the spoken words in a relevant and positive manner.

Pam Berg

A former English teacher and currently an elementary principal in a rural school, Pam has honed her speaking skills in the classroom and before professional groups. Pam enjoys sharing her insights about public speaking almost as much as she enjoys running, which she does daily.

Recent Posts