3 Practical Tips for Creating Effective Visual Aids

3 Practical Tips for Creating Effective Visual AidsOne of our pet peeves is bad visual aids! When we go into a class and observe an instructor who is using a power point or Prezi that is comprised entirely of text, it makes us extremely sad! This is so disappointing, because it’s a missed opportunity to effectively present information to students. Visual aids present content, offer demonstration, enhance credibility, illustrate content with examples, and increase retention, but only if they are visual in nature.

The learning pyramid  is one theory that suggests audiovisuals, such as Powerpoints, assist with 20% of average student retention rates. However, this is only true if the visual aid is effectively created and presented. Instructors, who copy and paste large amount of text on powerpoint slides and then read the information to students, are not being effective. How does this differ from the information that a student could read from his/her textbook? The visual aid should add substance to the topic that the instruct is lecturing on.

jeremy-yap-160713So ask your self these very hard questions and be honest! Are your visual aids effective? Have you balanced text and pictures? Are you adequately using contrast to focus student’s attention?

You are the presenter! You are the content expert! You are the person bringing the information to life. Your visual aid should enhance your lecture not be a word for word transcription of what you’re going to say on a screen beside you. Below are some practical tips to improve your visual aid effectiveness.

1. No Sentences! Limit Text.

Picture, pictures and more pictures. Your visual aid should not include complete sentences. Students can read the textbook; therefore, the visual aid should not include information copied and pasted directly from the textbook. It should include key words or phrase that help stimulate your memory, so you can effectively explain and discuss concepts. By limiting your text, it also ensure that you won’t read your power points to your audience. This enhances your credibility and allows you to demonstrate your content expertise.

2. Personalize

Effective visual aids are also personalized. Publisher’s power points can be a wonderful starting point, but if you use them, you should personalize them to fit your style and the concepts being presented. Consider imbedding videos, inserting relevant pictures, and breaking up the lecture slides with some active learning activities that simulate thought or assess learning. Personalizing your visual aid can also help to streamline your lectures. For example, you can include the instructions for an activity at the exact point in lecture when you want students engaged, rather than searching YouTube or printing directions and handing out copies to every student.

3. Death By Power Point 

This is an amazing TED talk that changed the way we present information to students! Colleagues that we have shared this with find it extremely helpful, so we are SUPER excited to share it with you. David Phillips, the owner of Presentationsteknik.com and leading figure on making effective presentations, talks about how to create more effective and visually appealing presentations based on his book “How To Avoid Death By PowerPoint”. His TED talk will change your entire approach to creating visual aids! To summarize the main points, David Phillips suggests only presenting one message per slide, using contrast and size to direct focus, not using complete sentences on slides, using dark backgrounds, and never including more than six points per slide. You can watch the entire video on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwpi1Lm6dFo.

The slide below demonstrates the type of balance that is ideal. Notice how this slide focuses on a singular message, has a limited amount of text and a photo that relates to the topic of the slide.