Visual aids can be a great help in keeping trainees engaged, but they’re also easy to misuse. What are some common mistakes that trainers make with visual aids, and what best practices should trainers follow to avoid those mistakes?
Visual aids tend to be an afterthought, says Steve Rohr, a communications professor, professional, and coauthor of Scared Speechless: 9 Ways to Overcome Your Fears and Captivate Your Audience. As a result, visual aids are not always well-planned, organized, or effective, and trainers have little time to practice with them, he says.
Inconsistency in text, styles, and colors is another mistake because consistency “helps the audience keep track of where you’re going,” Rohr says.
Visual aids often have too much text or text that is too small—and that is not effective, he says. When there is too much text, trainers “tend to use visual aids as a crutch. They start to read off of the visual aid.” Visual aids should be “used to support, and not replace, a presentation in any way, shape, or form.”
Another mistake is displaying a visual aid too early or too late. Rohr says timing is important because you want the visual aid to support what you are saying, and you do not want to confuse trainees.
Rohr also advises trainers to “be as inclusive as possible—even if the audience is not,” when selecting images for visual aids. “Balance out gender, people of color, people of different abilities, age groups.”
In addition, Rohr recommends having a “Plan B” for visual aids in case you experience technical difficulties. For example, have hard copies of visual aids to hand out, and if your presentation is online, download it in advance in case Wi-Fi is unavailable during your training session.
Finally, Rohr recommends practicing with visual aids in the room where training will take place, physically running through your visual aids and making any necessary adjustments, such as changing the colors or fonts if the text is hard to see in that lighting.