Audio and visual aids such as presentation slides, video clips, charts, and animations can help you emphasize the key points of your lecture. They also enable students to visualize and better understand the concepts you are describing.

As an educator, you surely want to know how to use these types of tools for maximum benefit. In Cengage Advantage Books: The Speaker’s Compact Handbook, Fourth Edition, authors Jo Sprague, Douglas Stuart, and David Bodary offer a number of suggestions that can help you use your tools to enhance (rather than detract from) your presentation. We’ve summarized some salient points to keep in mind as you prepare your presentations for the next term:

  • Practice beforehand. Conducting a run-through of your lecture with your presentation tools can increase your confidence and help smooth your transitions from point to point.
  • Have your materials cued and ready to go. To limit the number of potential delays, set the presentation slides or media clip to the particular moment that’s most relevant to your lecture, so that you simply need to press a button or click a mouse in order to begin.
  • Speak to the audience, not to the screen.Mastering your material enables you to feel comfortable looking at your students rather than your notes or the projection. Maintaining eye contact increases engagement with your listeners and reinforces that you are connected with them as an audience.
  • Avoid long periods of silence. For example, if you need to demonstrate a process (such as solving an equation, running a lab experiment, or operating a computer program), talk through each step as you take it (e.g. “First, you will need to . . . next, you should . . . and finally. . .”). If a particular step takes time to load, run, or develop, fill the space in time with a related anecdote or additional background information on the concept you are demonstrating. Also consider readying models that show each step of the process; this can also save you time, while illustrating the various stages of the process that students need to see.
  • Don’t allow the technology or equipment to overshadow you. Inasmuch as possible, remain visible to your students by periodically stepping away from the computer, monitors, or projector. If you are fortunate enough to have a tech assistant on hand to assist with the audiovisual elements of your class, consider asking that person to run the slide deck; this will give you more freedom to move away from your computer and address the audience. However, if you must remain in position, use other techniques, such as vocal variety, to keep your students’ interest.
  • Keep students’ focus on your presentation, rather than on the presentation tools. Minimize the opportunity for distraction by taking such steps as: setting up models and charts prior to the start of class; covering or turning off presentation aids when they are not in use; and distributing handouts or other materials after the lecture. You can also head off potentially distracting snags by preparing for technology mishaps ahead of time. Test all the equipment before you use it; carry a backup copy of your presentation slides and media clips on a USB flash drive or other media storage device; and request spare bulbs, cords, or other accessories in case they happen to fail during the class session. (Sprague et al., p. 211-213)

Reference: Sprague, J., Stuart, D., and Bodary, D. 2014. Cengage Advantage Books: The Speaker’s Compact Handbook, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Do you have additional suggestions for using lecture aids effectively? Any particular examples you’d like to share? Post them in the comments section below.