Oral presentations are a very effective technique for transferring information or persuading an audience to take a particular course of action. It is likely that you will be required to give oral presentations throughout the rest of your education and during the course of your career. The best way to prepare for this eventuality is to give lots of presentations. And, for each presentation, the key words are practice, practice, practice.
Presentations using slides or power point slides are unique in that many pictures may be used to convey an idea. However, it's important not to overload your audience. Thus, minimize the amount of information on any one slide, make the fonts and information relatively large, and use more images and pictures. Highlighted bullets on successive frames are very effective tools to get the point across.
Stick to a horizontal format for your slide presentation. If a "vertical" or "portrait" slide is used in a presentation, the projector lens will have to be "zoomed" down to fit on to the projection screen. Zooming in and out is distracting. Worse, if there the slides cannot be zoomed, or there is no projectionist available to manually zoom the image, you will lose information at the top and bottom of your slide. Therefore, avoid vertical format slides whenever possible.
Design-tips for effective presentations
- Avoid busy, confusing backgrounds (PowerPoint has many built-in backgrounds and schematics - they can be quite distracting, particularly when mixed with the variety of fonts and colors also available on standard PowerPoint templates).
- Use a font large enough to be seen from the back of the room. Use a color for the wording that has a very high contrast to the background. Background colors that transition from dark to light can make words difficult to read as the contrast changes.
- Keep the background simple. Consider a simple white background with dark lettering (or vice versa.)
- Bar graphs, pie charts and line graphs are effective tools to show trends and statistics.
- Use contrasting, bright colors to delineate between categories. Simplify graphs, and only present one graph or figure per slide. If you have a lot of graphs, intersperse them with other images to keep the attention of your audience. Use a font large enough for audiences to see the axis labels, categories, legends, lines, and symbols.
- Handouts of the presentation are easily printed from PowerPoint and can include details or explanations.
- Never use typed text as a slide. (Literally typed on a typewriter!) This is a very ineffective use of the medium and always looks bad.
General rules of thumb
- Use one or at the most two type faces (i.e fonts) per slide
- Use sans-serif fonts (ex: Arial Font)
- Use 2 or at the most three font sizes per slide
- Don't use more than 4 colors per slide
- Standing 9 feet away from a 15" monitor has the same effect as holding a slide at arms length.