Public Speaking – Effectively Utilizing an Overhead Projector During Your Speech

Not very long ago, I was asked to give a speech for a small organization. I
arranged with the co-coordinator to have a projector and laptop available.
I was good so I confirmed the availability the day before and was assured
they had the projector and the laptop although they were having some
problems connecting the two. No big problem! If necessary, I could put my
techie background to work and connect the two wires without a great deal of
problem. No sweat.

So I walk in the next morning and what do I see? It’s been many a year
since I last used an overhead projector during a speech. And needless to
say, I wasn’t really prepared to do so now. Fortunately, I had brought my
own laptop and projector so I was able to go on. But the experience got me
to thinking.

Long before PowerPoint and computer generated slide shows, and long, long
before inexpensive pocket-sized LED projectors (Thank You T.P. Pearsall),
there were only three ways to show a graphic when you spoke. You could use
a very expensive photographic slide. You could use a flip chart. Or you
could use an overhead projector.

As nice as it is to have the equivalent of photographic slides for every
speech, I realized that there were a number of advantages to the overhead
projector. And that the skills learned on those dinosaurs have helped me
use more modern equipment more effectively.

So here are seven tips to help you effectively utilize an overhead
projector during your speech (with a bit of updating).

1 Maximum 4 points per slide — but 3 is better. Stop trying to write a novel. Your audience can only
process four points at a time using this media. In modern times you’re best
to keep it to three points maximum. Your audience probably doesn’t have the
attention span for four points.

2 One picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures or graphics are always better than a words. They’re retained and
require less processing by our brains.

3 Two pictures is worth a dose of Sleep-Eze. Just because one picture is better than 3 lines on the slide, don’t try to
put two or more pictures on a slide. One is the maximum unless you’re
making a movie!

4 The audience doesn’t have binoculars — match your slide to the room size. 30 point size is the modern equivalent rule for PowerPoints. The size of
the room determines how large your projection needs to be in order to be
read. For every ten feet your projection needs to have letters 1 inch in
height. So if the farthest point in the room is thirty feet away, the
letters need to be 3 inches high. (Hello Pythagoras).

5 Stick the slide in front so you can face the audience. Don’t read the slide. In fact, don’t look at the slide. Use a copy on the
desk so you can glance at it while facing the audience.

6 Turn off the overhead when you are speaking This was originally thought to protect the lamp. But it really allows your
audience to focus on what you are saying instead of trying to read your

7 Handouts are for reading, overheads are for fixating. Do not ever, ever read out the slide. If you have that much written on the
slide or that little to say, your audience has already finished reading by
the time you’re getting rolling. Always talk around the points on the
slide. And never, never face the screen.

Do you want to read more free information like this? Go to my blog:

Do you like public speaking? Do you like humor? Check out our new book “101
Limericks about Public Speaking” available from

Glen Ford is an accomplished consultant, trainer and writer. He has far too
many years experience as a trainer and facilitator to willingly admit.

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