Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Three Types of Presentation Aids

Although many options exist for speakers, I have found that there are really only a handful of aids that they regularly use when making presentations at a meeting or conference. So what choices are they making? Let’s take a quick look at three of the most common types in the industry today (not in any particular order)…

Yep, these are still used. They are easy to acquire and set up, and don’t require a lot of space to use. They give the presenter flexibility in terms of what information to post on the page. However, their utility is limited as the audience size grows, becoming ineffective once you hit a certain point. Flipcharts are excellent tools for small groups with high interaction between the audience and the speaker or trainer.

Videos can be very engaging and powerful, using the combination of images and sounds to evoke strong feelings in an audience. However, lowering the lights to effectively show a video may also encourage portions of the audience to doze off… In all seriousness, though, videos are very much a one-way presentation format with little opportunity for interaction between the presenter and the audience. When properly incorporated into a presentation, videos can work well regardless of the size of the audience.

Essentially a slide presentation, PowerPoint offers a few advantages over the old slide carousels. Firstly, it allows a presenter to make substantive changes to their presentation very late in the game. In fact, many presenters don’t even complete their presentation until just before their scheduled talk so they can include the latest data or information and reorder the slides for best presentation of the data. A few other advantages PowerPoint has over slides are that it allows for relatively easy “jumping” to other sections of the presentations, it can include video and sound files as part of the presentation, handouts are easily produced from the originally file, and the file itself is much easier to transport than a slide carousel. Unfortunately, the format does tend to get misused by presenters in their attempts to make their presentations more interesting. If you need to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, you may want to check out my Rules for Using PowerPoint.

Those of you who are more experienced will notice that I’ve left off two formats that were once quite common: Overhead Projectors and Mock-Ups (also known as examples or samples). Both of these formats are still in use but neither one is used as frequently as the three types outlines above, if at all. Overhead projectors, once a staple of any AV company’s equipment stock along with slide projectors, have been almost completely replaced by LCD projectors (which are being used to project PowerPoint presentations). I have not seen one used in a presentation for at least five years. Mock-ups are still in use by trainers but they, too, seem to have been supplanted by PowerPoint in many cases and, when they are used, I have almost always seen them used in conjunction with one of the other methods.

Keep in mind that, whatever method you choose to use, make sure that it is appropriate for the venue and audience – as well as for the content. Ultimately, how well the type of presentation aid supports the content and situation is usually more important than which type it actually is and, as always, your content is more important than the aids used to present it.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises