Simple choices still work well

The simplest of visual aids for a spoken talk is a chalkboard, whiteboard, or large paper pad (flipchart). From the presenter's point of view, the downside of these simple aids is that they can be difficult to prepare in advance. However, from the audience perspective, this is an advantage because a live performance is always more interesting to observe than a prepackaged one. The most effective way to use these aids is selectively. Intersperse face-to-face commentary with written items.

Midway between a live and a packaged approach is the overhead projection transparency. Not too long ago, one of these projectors was in almost any workplace, conference room, or classroom. It will be a shame if they are totally eclipsed by laptop-based presentations. Overheads are easy to use, require few technical connections, and don't crash or suffer other computer hang-ups.

Even more important from a pedagogical standpoint, transparencies can be developed in advance, but easily and simply modified with a wipe-off marker during the talk. (One should note that there are ways for the manually dexterous user to do this with PowerPoint, too, but not as simply or intuitively.) By underlining, circling important points, or writing words in the margins, you can give your presentation extra life. If this is done in response to audience input, listeners will be drawn closely into your talk and feel a stronger connection with you than you would ever attain with a canned approach.

For some oral presentations, particularly those that require many photographs, 35 mm slides are still a good choice, either in a simple carousel projector or imported into a computerized presentation as digital copy. Audiences tend to enjoy the movie-like atmosphere. However, they may get drowsy sitting in darkness, and disconnect with you and your message. Avoid giving one long slide show. Instead, dim the room lights only enough so that slides can be seen while some light is still focused on you. Show slides in batches, with breaks in-between where you turn away from the projector and connect directly with your audience.

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