Long gone are the days of carrying around a bulky easel pad and plastic box full of different colored markers for presentations. Replacing the easel pad was the white board-on-wheels, but the box of markers was still needed. Then, in 1987, a breakthrough program was created that would change the face of presentations forever: Microsoft PowerPoint. Now available for both Windows and Mac, PowerPoint has become “the most widely used application for creating a computer-based presentation or slide show” (Powerpoint, n.d.).
Since 1987, PowerPoint has gone through many changes, and other presentation programs were later introduced. Whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi or any other program that makes presentations or slide shows, these tips will help you make a clear, easy-to-follow presentation that will focus attention on you and the message you’re trying to deliver.
Point #1: Each slide should have a main header (or title). The header is usually a larger font than the rest of the text in the slide, and tells your audience exactly what the slide is about.
Point #2: Below the main header should be a few main points that you will discuss. These could be separated by numbers or bullet points. It is imperative that you avoid complete sentences! You want your audience to glance at the slide, pick up the main information, and then return their gaze to you as you explain each point in detail.
Point #3: Everyone loves pictures; however, the amateur presenter overuses photographs, often using multiple pictures instead of simple words to explain his or her main points. Choose your photographs wisely, and generally stay away from “cute” photographs that will draw attention away from your message.
Point #4: Adding to the confusion are animations. When the amateur presenter discovers animations—tools that can make words and photographs enter into, exit or disappear from a slide—he or she usually overuses them. The end result is chaos. Everything moves, shakes, disappears, flies in, and changes colors and sizes, making the audience nauseous and confused.
Point #5: Using charts and graphs, such as pie charts and bar graphs, to explain numbers, statistics or trends is a powerful tool, and often legitimizes presentations by highlighting research that supports the presenter’s main message.
Point #6: Like photographs, use cartoons and other animated pictures sparingly, if at all. Hearts, unicorns, and anime characters are all cute, but they usually do not belong in academic and professional presentations (unless your presentation is on one of those topics, of course). More than likely, these cute animations will take away from your message and derail the audience.
Point #7: Use a standard presentation design. There are ways to use your own photographs or designs, but the designs that are available in programs like PowerPoint are generally all well used by professionals around the world. Try to find one that fits your topic and speaking style, and avoid choosing one that is difficult to focus on or that makes the words difficult to read.
Please note that these guidelines are for the slides only, and do not follow any kind of pattern or structure! In the following units, presentation structure will be discussed.