I have always been very much in favour of using visual aids in business presentations – there is plenty of research to indicate how powerful they can be in terms of making your message both understood and remembered – but the aids that are most effective of all are often those that are cheap and impromptu.
Possibly the best use of a visual aid that I have ever seen was in a presentation by a Fund Manager. In response to a question, he reached for a scrap of flimsy paper and drew a very simple graph with just two axes and one line. He then held the piece of paper close to his face and guided his audience through the movements on the graph using his pencil as a pointer. By doing so he created a ‘single point of focus’ - him and his graph all in one ‘tight shot’ - and he never broke eye contact, making his delivery highly compelling.
The reason he was able to hold eye contact was that the scrap of paper was so flimsy that he could see through it and therefore knew exactly where he was pointing at any given moment. What underpinned the powerful delivery technique was that it all looked as though this thought had just occurred to him and that he had drawn the graph especially for this audience to answer their specific question. In other words, it was not a carefully thought out piece of PowerPoint to be rolled out to all and sundry.
In reality, of course, the ‘graph on a scrap of paper’ was central to his regular repertoire, and an essential part of his preparation for meetings was to ensure that some scrappy paper and a pencil were close to hand. If the paper provided was too thick he would send out for something cheaper!
I am not one to advocate abandoning PowerPoint altogether – you should use whatever helps to get your point across to this particular audience on this particular occasion. But imagine how powerful some cheap and impromptu aids can be if you are using them to break away for some more sophisticated aids that are clearly pre-prepared.
It nevertheless begs the question as to how far you can or should adopt the cheap and impromptu principle. For inspiration you might like to look below at a presentation given by my advertising hero Dave Trott (Click on the link under the picture). He delivers the whole thing by doodling on an overhead projector (remember them?)! You will soon see, however, that it suits his ‘Wise Old Cockney Geezer’ character so much better than anything that PowerPoint could ever provide.