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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Is your communication CLEAR? Yes. When we leverage visual aids.

Two young girls handling a visual aid

What has the power to significantly improve the effectiveness of a written or spoken message?

Visual aids!

What are visual aids? Many things qualify. Still or moving pictures, props, displays, skits, and demonstrations are all considered visual aids.

Even you, the communicator, are a visual aid. When you add meaningful facial expressions, gestures, and body movement you are a visual aid enhancing the effectiveness of your message.

The L in CLEAR stands for Leverage Visual Aids. The word leverage in this context is a verb meaning to use something to maximum advantage.

This post will explain why and how to leverage visual aids for CLEAR communication.

Why do visual aids enhance communication?

According to Chapter 18 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, titled “Utilize Visual Aids to Enhance Communication,”

“Combining visual depictions of information along with or in place of verbal descriptions can more effectively convey key messages. Visual aids assist audiences in understanding content, storing it in long-term memory for future use, and putting knowledge into practice.”

Audience members have limited attention spans, varying levels of prior knowledge, and limited capacity for storing information. Visual aids promote attention to a message, promote accurately assigning meaning and understanding, improve retention of information, enhance persuasion, and promote taking action.

Communicators benefit from using visual aids because information is conveyed more efficiently and effectively than with words alone. Visual aids can be leveraged to convey key ideas, define terms, show how things work, illustrate data, make comparisons, and connect concepts.

When we leverage visual aids, our communication becomes clearer.

How does one leverage the use of visual aids for clear communication?

The five tips below list 5 ways to leverage visual aids. Download a free copy of Using Visual Aids Effectively.

Tip 1 Use visual aids with purpose

Visual aids are a proven method for capturing and maintaining attention, enhancing understanding and retention of learning, and promoting taking action.

To achieve the greatest impact, choose visual aids to meet specific goals. Each one should serve a purpose. Well-selected and carefully designed visuals enhance communication. Choose them wisely.


Tip 2 Make visuals clear and uncluttered

You’ve heard the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This statement is true for props, graphics, PowerPoint slides, and all types of visual aids – IF they are clearly conveyed and uncluttered.

However, if they are busy and confusing, they will be distracting and ineffective – keep them simple! As you create visual aids, remember this wise advice… Less is more.


Tip 3 Visual aids illustrate and instruct

Visual aids can illustrate an idea or show a process more efficiently and effectively than a description alone. Imagine trying to explain digestion without an illustration of the digestive tract, or show how to determine stages of ripeness without pieces of fruit or photos?

Adding visual to verbal promotes learning and retention in less time. Illustrate your instruction!


Tip 4 Practice with props

Props are an effective visual aid for many reasons: they can regain attention, illustrate key ideas, enhance understanding, and improve retention. Make sure your props are visible to everyone by using ones that are large enough and displaying them in clear view of your audience.

Prior to use in a presentation, practice with your prop, especially if it is part of a demonstration. Avoid prop failure!


Tip 5 You are the main visual

A common error when using visual aids is putting the focus on the visual aids and not the presenter. When the focus is on your slides or props, you can lose your connection with the audience and reduce your impact.

Keep in mind that YOU are the main visual aid in a presentation – be expressive and purposeful in your movement, gestures, and facial expressions to support your message.


For more examples of using visual aids, see Do your presentations sink or swim? Bring visual aids to the rescue. How can you leverage visual aids in your communication?


To leverage visual aids is to maximize their impact.

  • Choose visuals that add meaning to your message and illustrate information and ideas better than words alone.

  • Keep visuals simple and uncluttered.

  • Practice with props or demonstrations before using with an audience.

  • And remember: YOU are the main visual aid, so be expressive and purposeful to support your message.

Is your communication CLEAR? Yes. When we...

Put all of the principles in the CLEAR acronym into practice to promote effective communication. In our next post, we will explore what the E in CLEAR stands for - the importance of employing analogies and metaphors.

“Well-designed visual aids do more than provide information; they bring order to the conversation.” ~ Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger

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