Delivering a good presentation that fully engages the audience is achievable for anybody willing to put in the effort. But what if you’ve put in all the prep, arrived full of confidence, and still see sections of the audience utterly unmoved by your glittering charisma?
It could be they simply can’t understand you – because they are one of the 253 million visually impaired or 466 million hearing-impaired people, worldwide. It’s therefore important to understand how to tailor your presentation to be as inclusive as possible.
Presentations for the Visually Impaired
Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways you can make your presentations more accessible for visually impaired audience members. The first and most important step is to simply be inclusive, and focus on the audible elements of your presentation. Keep them in mind from the outset and you’re halfway there.
Plan Your Seating
If you know that members of your audience are visually impaired, the easiest way to accommodate them is to seat them appropriately. Make sure they are seated centrally with a good view of the presentation area. They obviously can’t be too far towards the back, but you should also avoid putting them right at the front. Try sitting in the seats yourself to get a feel for the best spots.
If you’re unsure whether or not to expect visually impaired audience members, you can reserve a section of seats in the optimum position. Make sure these are clearly marked and that anyone in charge of seating people is fully aware of where they are.
Make Your Visuals Clear
A little consideration in the planning process is all that’s needed to ensure your visual aids are clear for everybody. Use big, bold lettering in a clear font, avoiding serif fonts or anything needlessly ornate.
Using contrasting colours makes text stand out, but be aware that red-on-green or blue-on-yellow might be completely undecipherable for people suffering from colour blindness. On the other hand, black text on a yellow background is easier for dyslexics to read. There is a range of fonts designed specifically with dyslexics in mind that could make your job easier.
It’s also a good idea to avoid using animated text. Anything on the move is harder to read and will almost certainly be lost.
Interacting with the Visually Impaired
There is absolutely no reason why a visually impaired person can’t be a fully interactive member of your audience. Just follow a few common-sense ground rules:
- Questions: If a blind or visually impaired person puts their hand up to ask a question, let them know they’ve been seen. You don’t need to always let them go first – they don’t want to be given special treatment. A simple acknowledgment that they’ve been seen is enough.
- Tone of Voice: Don’t raise your voice to speak to them. Their hearing is probably just fine. This is a frustration that the visually impaired encounter surprisingly often.
- Visual Aids: Fully explain your charts and graphs. Make sure those who can’t see them can at least understand the key information within them.
- Respect: Remember that, besides their eyesight, these are people every bit as capable of you are. Treat them as such. Be respectful and don’t patronise them.
Presentations for the Hearing Impaired
Catering for the hearing impaired in your audience is, again, not too difficult. Here are some simple things you can do in the planning process:
Appropriate seating is just as important for the hearing impaired as it is for the visually impaired. Unless their hearing loss is very recent, most of this group will be able to understand almost everything you say by lip-reading, even if they can’t hear it – so a good view of your mouth is vital. Seat them close to the front and make sure you enunciate your words as clearly as possible.
Position yourself properly, too. Face your audience whenever speaking, allowing them a good view of your face. Avoid speaking with your head turned (towards the screen, for example). Make clear eye contact and use your tone of voice visually with facial expressions to help them understand your message.
Interacting With the Hearing Impaired
If you’ve managed to get everybody properly seated, interacting with most hearing-impaired audience members is as straightforward as facing them, enunciating your words properly and allowing them to lip-read. However, there will be times when a little more is needed.
It may be that an audience member is also partially sighted, or it’s been impossible to organise the seating arrangements as you’d like. Whatever the reason, it needn’t be a problem if you already thought ahead and provided some simple induction loop technology.
An induction loop is a specifically designed PA system that hangs around your neck and delivers your voice to hearing aids, via an FM signal. It’s a simple, effective and cheap solution that any hearing impaired person is well-versed in using.
There are many contexts which may require you to present to the visually or hearing impaired. Whether you’re at work, a conference or one on one with a client, use these tips to tailor your presentation to their needs, and be accessible.