The use of visuals in public speaking can enhance a speech or they can detract from it. Here are some mistakes to avoid when using a visual aid in your speech.
Visual aids to be avoided are those which might be used to attract attention without adding anything to the meaning of the talk, like the eggs (really only shells) which a student threw at his audience for his conclusion to a speech about education.
These visual aids got plenty of attention all right. Listeners were dodging to get out of the way because the “eggs” looked real. The action was surely memorable, but the only point the speaker made with it was, “Here’s something to remember me by!” And this really had no bearing upon the theme of the speech at all.
Another speaker used this same stunt, but for a logical purpose. At the beginning of his speech, Thinking Makes It So, he tossed a double handful of prepared eggs into the audience, paused, and then asked, “Why did you dodge? Because you thought those eggs were real! And thinking makes it so?”
A Hoosier professor of history tosses Clark Bars out to his students when he lectures on George Rogers Clark. Another speaker had red lollipops passed out in his audience as he told a dramatic story about how a man regained faith in himself largely because of a red lollipop.
Some people might consider such demonstrations as being too sensational. But when an activity, although unusual, supports a sensible idea it cannot be considered mere sensationalism. The dull truth is that many speakers, fearing sensationalism perhaps, or being too inert to find the properties, use no visual aids at all to stimulate interest.
Others use visual aids so sparingly or timidly the effect is not pronounced.
An article should be used to the best advantage by presenting it so it may be clearly seen by everyone in the audience. When a speaker half hides an object in his hands or hugs it close to his body as though he fears someone will see it he defeats the purpose of an effective aid.
Some speakers err by talking to a thing instead of with the people in their audiences. An inanimate object has never yet accepted and acted upon an idea expressed by a speaker. The successful speaker, therefore, is able to look directly at his audience and speak while holding a visual aid in his hand. While writing on a blackboard he keeps his back away from the audience as much as possible. He will not write at length on the board, but rather will write sparingly, talk, and look directly at the audience as much as possible.
Naturally a speaker should not continue holding an object which he is through talking about. Nor should he furnish literature or numerous pictures for listeners to pass around while he tries to talk. If he does he is merely inviting competition for himself. And a dimple in the picture of a bathing beauty’s face may attract more attention than his entire speech!
By using a little common sense and imagination it is possible to use visual aids in a way that add interest to your speech. The objects work best when they are related to the topic being presented.