The days of relying solely on flip charts and Magic Markers® for
business presentations are long gone. Business owners who want to
be taken seriously must take advantage of all the multimedia tools
available to them when presenting their companies to investors, potential
clients or business associates: overhead projectors, slides, videos
In contrast with old-fashioned methods, sophisticated visual aids
can help the audience understand what is being discussed by allowing
them to see as well as hear the benefits of being presented. Not only
does the use of multimedia clearly communicate a point, it holds the
interest of the listener and does wonders for the credibility of the
How can you make these technologies work for you? There is no quick answer or easy solution to properly balance and incorporate these tools. Use this overview to decide which options work best for you. You don't necessarily need high-speed broadband or fancy projectors and programs. Even a simple Power Point presentation or photo slide show can help grab the attention of your audience. Don't be afraid to experiment and try incorporating visual aids, you won't regret it!
Overhead projectors and transparencies -- These may seem very
primitive, but you would be surprised how many people don't even use
these simple visuals to enhance their presentations. If you don't
use any other aid, utilize transparencies for informal presentations
to give your audience a break from a monotonous speech. Hold their
attention with visuals of pie charts, graphs and bulleted points.
Transparencies are very inexpensive (about $12 to $25 per 100 sheets),
and they make effective visual aids because of their flexibility.
You can use them for large or small groups, and you can prepare them
in advance of during your presentation. You can make your own by simply
purchasing transparency sheets at an office supply store and using
a photocopier to duplicate color or black and white pages. If you
prefer, most printing shops can make the transparencies for you.
There are several points to keep in mind when using overhead projectors
- If the text
is typed, use a simple, 18-point font or larger (at least ¼
inch high). Smaller type will be hard for your audience to read.
- Put the sheets
in order of use and number them in case they get shuffled.
- Make an index
of pages for easy reference in case you need to go back and reemphasize
- Take advantage
of color to make the visuals more appealing.
- Use multiple
overlays to convey different ideas.
- Use a pointer
and stand near the screen instead of standing at the overhead projector
with your back to your audience. No one wants to strain to hear
what you're saying.
- Carry extra
light bulbs and extension cords in case Murphy's law kicks in.
35mm slides -- Slides are more expensive than transparencies
(about $7 to $8 per slide), and they are best used for formal presentations.
However, you should limit the number you incorporate into your speech
because they tend to lose their impact when used in abundance. Consider
using them for the extremely important points that you want your listeners
You can have your presentation converted to slides by any major copy
center in about one week. There are several other hints to consider
when using slides:
- Limit the information
on each slide, and keep the wording brief.
- Keep the lights
on during a slide presentation. You don't want your listeners to
use that time to take a cat nap. If the room is dim, use a lighted
- Stand in front
of the room and use a pointer so you can face your audience - not
- Always check
the order of slides and make sure none are inserted upside down.
It can be embarrassing for you if you try to reorganize them during
- Use a remote
control so you are free to move about the room and interact with
- Use blank slides
periodically so you can reconnect with audience members. They are
sure to be distracted if they are busy looking at the next slide
while you are finishing a point.
- Carry extra
extension cords and light bulbs, and know how and when to change
Videotapes and films -- Videotapes and films are both good
options for formal presentations that don't require or invite interaction.
Both are expensive presentation tools (expect to spend several hundred
to several thousand dollars, depending on complexity), but if you
make a lot of presentations, it may be worth the investment, especially
if the subject matter is particularly artistic or technical in nature.
Your audience will be duly impressed if you present a well-organized,
professional video or film showcasing your products or services. Try
to keep the video less than 20 minutes in length. After that point,
viewers may lose interest and begin to get fidgety.
Some pointers for using videos and films:
-- There are many ways that computers can contribute visually to your
presentations. Computers allow you to make simulations of products or
structures before they are actually built, which can eliminate the need
for expensive prototypes. They also permit you to go online during a
meeting to showcase your Web site or dissect your competitors' sites.
Computers can be used to create monochrome or color overheads and slides,
and features such as color mixing, text outlining, spell check and templates
allow you to easily duplicate logos and colors throughout your materials.
In addition to color and flexibility, computer presentation graphics
offer dynamic effects that enhance film and video such as fadeout transitioning
- Don't turn
the lights off -- just dim them.
- Learn how to
troubleshoot in a pinch (fix VCR's tracking, speed, etc.)
- Review the
film or video prior to your presentation for focus, clarity and
- Fast forward
the videotape to the starting point prior to your presentation.
You don't want to be fumbling after you've started - it will only
add to your anxiety level.
- Thread film
prior to your presentation, and have it ready to run at the starting
- Use a remote
- Locate and
test electrical outlets. You want to ensure the proper placement
of the TV/VCR or film projector.
- Take extra
extension cords, bulbs and videotape cleaner.
Before you decide to incorporate computer applications into your presentations,
assess your needs. Know what you want your computer to do: Do you need
a color or black-and-white monitor? How much memory do you need? Is
it necessary to have a CD-ROM drive? Do you need to have a modem for
fax or Internet access? Which presentation software do you want to purchase?
These are just some of the questions you need to think about.
Some of the most popular presentation graphic programs are Harvard Graphics
($279.99, Software Publishing Corporation), Freelance Plus ($89.99,
Lotus Development Corporation), and PowerPoint ($89.99, Microsoft).
Most presentation software is available in both Macintosh and PC versions.
Note: Some of these programs are not intended for beginners. Consider
taking a course at a community college if you need instruction.
Here are more tips for using computers for presentations:
- Ensure that
your presentation is copied to the computer's hard drive and back
it up on a floppy disk.
- Have a back-up
plan. Prepare another presentation format, such as transparencies,
if technical problems threaten to overshadow your presentation.
No matter how comfortable you are with the technology you must expect
- Remember accessories,
including a mouse, batteries (if a laptop will be used without AC
power), a back-up modem, an external CD-ROM drive (if not installed
on your computer), and blank formatted floppy disks.
Here are some important things to do at least 24 hours in advance
of your presentation:
1) Do a test run of your presentation from start to finish
at your office. It helps to practice in front of several people.
2) Test the setup of your computer, especially your presentation
software. If you are unfamiliar with the system, allow yourself ample
time to get acquainted with the software.
3) Locate and test outlets in the room where you will be speaking
to ensure that all equipment will work properly and you'll have ample
4) Pick up any equipment you have rented for the presentation.
Make sure it is scheduled to be completely set up at least one-half
hour early. Ensure that there is someone at the presentation site
responsible to receive the delivery and administer the setup.
5) Check the lighting and temperature of the facility. You'll
want your listeners to be comfortable. If they're too warm, they're
likely to get groggy. If they're too cold, they won't be able to sit
still trying to stay warm.
copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999