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Using Visual Aids in Public Speaking

As an associate strategy consultant for Aon Inpoint in Chicago, Alex Mosnick assists insurance clients worldwide. Alex Mosnick draws regularly on his public speaking skills, which he practices at Toastmasters International. The group was established in 1924 to help members develop speaking and leadership skills. In nearly 100 years, it has grown to include some 358,000 members in 143 countries.

In addition to a clear voice and good body language, visual aids are a good way to add interest to a speech. The Toastmasters website offers several suggestions to increase audience involvement:

Before you speak, prepare. Practice and time your introduction, main points, and summary often, asking friends to observe and comment. If possible, familiarize yourself with the stage and podium and locate the correct entrance and exit.
Your visual aids should enhance, not distract. Make sure you maintain eye contact with the audience when using them. Connect your visuals to your message: charts, graphs, and diagrams should appear when you mention them. Do not include extraneous information on maps or other graphics, and ensure their easy visibility by standing beside or under all displays.
In PowerPoint presentations, use bullet points and brief sentences, and choose different words than those on screen. Five or six items are considered the upper limit of audience attention. Distribute any handouts before or after your speech as required.
Props can be helpful, as long as they are relevant. Use them sparingly and avoid those that are too large or two small.
For more on this and other topics, check out Toastmasters at

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