Planning a presentation
When well prepared, slide shows shown with a video projector or on screen are a good way to present information to a large audience. However, people often forget what a good slide show should be like when planning a presentation. Always bear in mind that the content of your presentation is what matters most.
Take time to put your presentation together, and consider carefully what you want to present and to whom. A clear-cut slide show can be divided into three parts:
- an introduction with a short summary of what you are about to present,
- the presentation itself where facts can be demonstrated with examples, and
- a conclusion summarizing the main points and offering a conclusion.
Avoid all unnecessary tricks and clutter. If you fill your presentation with a lot of ‘extravagant’ effects, it will most probably seem quite repulsive to your audience. Only use effects after carefully considering the reason to use them. Effects are not supposed to take the audience’s attention away from the content, but to support the main points of the presentation, so do not try to fix a weak presentation with special effects, but rather work on the content!
There is a very common and bad mistake when planning slides: the tendency to ‘stuff’ the slide with too much information. If a slide contains a great deal of information, the font size will inevitably shrink too much. As a rule of thumb, remember the 7±2 rule; a slide that is easy to read contains 7±2 lines of writing with 7±2 words per line. if the text in a slide looks like it may expand too much, divide it onto two slides.
If you are using images in your slide show, they should clearly support the matter at hand. Images may certainly cheer up your presentation, but too many pictures may clutter the presentation.
The most important things to consider for fonts is how clear and readable they are. Select a clear, large font and avoid very curly fonts (they are hard to read even at close range). Make the font at least 18 points large. headings can be even larger.
Do not use more than two fonts at the most. You can emphasize with a different font size, colour, bold letters or italics. Consider carefully what effects you want to use; it can be hard to read e.g. a long text in italics, but italics can be a good way to emphasize individual words. It is not to be recommended to use capitals other than at the start of sentences, proper names and headings.
Use the same background colour in all the slides in one presentation, unless there is a specific reason to change the colour. Note that, if you use styles, you can format all the slides at once without having to format every slide separately.
Select the colouring according to purpose. A light background is usually better with e.g. printouts, while a darker background is better when using a data projector.
ALWAYS check the readability of your presentation beforehand; in particular, pay attention to how the text stands out from the background. Keep in mind that some colour combinations can seem unpleasant or even be impossible to read (e.g. for the colour blind).
Graphs and tables
It is not a good idea to insert very detailed tables or similar information in the presentation. It is better to copy them and hand them out on paper, and only show e.g. a summary of the data on a slide, e.g. as a graph.
Please be aware that the type of graph has an effect on how the data is understood. A poorly selected graph type may represent the data completely incorrectly. Pay careful attention to what kind of graph you want to use in your presentation.
- A bar chart is the most used type of graph. it is suitable for .e.g. comparing data.
- A curve chart is suitable for e.g. demonstrating change or development during a certain time period.
- A pie chart can describe how a whole divides into different parts. It is not recommended that you have more than six sections in a pie chart, though, you can lump many small parts under one Other heading, and present that data in a separate chart on another slide.
Preparing for a slide show
Setting a time schedule for the presentation may prove challenging, depending on how experienced you are. You should always go through your presentation carefully and estimate how long it will take to discuss the information on each slide. As an example, over 10 slides can prove too much for a 20-minute presentation. Set aside some time for problems and for questions from the audience. When you are setting the schedule, it is a good time to check your presentation for grammar errors.
It is best to arrive at the facilities for your presentation in good time to acquaint yourself with the apparatus and make sure everything is in working order. It is also a good idea to offer your presentation material to your audience beforehand, either on paper or online. if this is possible for you, inform the audience about this before the presentation so that the audience can load the material off the web and make notes directly into the material during the presentation.
When you are giving your presentation, you can easily be tempted to turn to the screen on the wall or read the presentation directly from the slides. However, your presentation will seem much more natural and honest if you talk to the audience instead of the screen, and you use your ‘own words’ to discuss the subject matter.