Preparing an Effective Presentation: A Practical Guideline
A presentation is simply a type of public communication in which the presenter uses words with or without visual aids. The goals of doing a presentation vary from providing information, communicating research results, giving instruction, selling a plan, product or idea, or accomplishing a combination of these things. In a scientific forum, a presentation is used to share, discuss, test research results, or develop idea, or skills.
To perform an effective presentation, you should make a careful preparation. You can do it by doing the following 6 steps.
1. Determine your goal and know your topic
It is said that “Nothing is as necessary for success as the single-minded pursuit of an objective“. Thus, the first thing and the biggest challenge you face in preparing a presentation is to define the purpose of the presentation and determine how to reinforce this purpose. In the context of presenting a research report, you should also make sure that you have really mastered the content of the subject of your presentation (your undergraduate thesis, in the case of making presentation for oral examination). You should also know where to locate certain information in your research report. Suppose an audience would like to know more about the participants of your research, make sure you can directly refer to a specific section (pages) in your report.
2. Know your audience
Please note that you can never speak effectively to people without first understanding their perspective. Therefore, you need to ask yourself the following questions before making the presentation. Who are the audiences? Where are they from? Why do they attend this presentation? What do they expect from this presentation?
3. Organize your materials
Generally, oral presentations should be organized into: (1) an introduction that ends with your main point and a preview of the rest of the talk, (2) a main body, and (3) conclusions (and recommendations). The introduction should clearly tell the audience what the presentation will cover so that the audience is prepared for what is to come. The body should develop each point stated in the introduction. The conclusion should restate the ideas presented and emphasize the purpose of the presentation. It usually answers the questions, “So what?”
4. Choose and design visual aids to reinforce your meaning
Since we live in a time when communication is visual and verbal, visual aids are as important to oral communication as they are to written communication. Visual aids (1) help your audience understand your ideas; (2) show relationships among ideas; (3) help the audience follow your arguments [your “train” of thought]; and (4) help your audience remember what you said. In addition, visual aids also make a presentation more persuasive, more professional, and more interesting.
To help you design your visual aids (i.e.) slides effectively, apply the “Ten Commandments for Making powerful and effective Slides” at the second section of this guideline.
5. Establish Rapport with Your Audience
Building a rapport with your audience is one of the most important things you must learn if you wish to give an effective presentation. When you have established rapport with your audience, your presentation will flow smoothly and effectively because the audiences are now your partners in your presentation. As your partners, they’ll want you to succeed. They’ll overlook your nervousness and lack of polish. They’ll laugh at your jokes though they’ve heard it before. The followings are some tips you can use to build a rapport with your audience.
a. Get to know the audience
If have never made a contact with your audience, it’s very important to arrive early. Spend around 10 minutes introducing your-self to the gathering people. Have a brief talk with them. Who are they? What do they wish to gain by being there today? Or even, what do they do for a living? This is an effective way to put people at ease. You may only speak with 5% of the audience, but they in turn will talk to people there and by word of mouth people almost feel like they know you. This will not only build rapport but help break the ice.
b. Treat Every Person as an Individual
Even if the audience has hundreds of people, deal with each audience member individually. If you’re dealing with somebody in particular in the audience, look that person in the eye and listen attentively. One study has shown that in a presentation the most important word is you. So use it as much as you like. In addition, whenever possible, use names. Naturally, we all like to hear our names because being addressed personally makes us feel valued and recognized. So before starting to answer somebody, ask him/her: And your name is?
c. Use eye contact
Eye contact is essential if people are to feel important. So be sure to look your audience in the eye, especially when addressing a particular person. But also don’t forget to take in the entire group with your gaze. Don’t address only those people in the first row.
d. Speak the language of the audience.
With lecturers, use the common terms used in their fields. Use the word RAM to computer lover and watch their eyes light up. When speaking to associations learn if they are called clients, members, associates, delegates or true believers.
e. Ask rhetorical questions
If you’re dealing with a very large audience, every once in a while ask the audience a rhetorical question. This type of question forces a mental response. So, when not speaking directly to all audience members, with a rhetorical question a presenter can establish a connection with each individual.
f. Ask direct questions
If your audience is small (less than thirty people), instead of asking rhetorical questions, ask specific audience members direct questions. This way one can easily perceive the mood of those individuals while also triggering interest in all. An audience member never knows when he/she may be asked the next question.
Smiles are universal and very effective means of creating rapport. If you smile, your audiences will naturally smile back at you. Remember that your audiences are a mirror of you, the speaker. If you think your audience looks miserable, it’s because you are making them miserable.
6. Practice! Practice! Practice!
After knowing what you are going to do and have an end result to aim for, it’s time to practice. Arrange some short rehearsals in the run up to your final performance. Remember that every good actor or actress spend a lot of time to prepare through practices before making the performance. It’s true that practices make perfect. Jacobi (in Wallwork, 2020, p. 2) emphasized the essence of practice by saying: “Ninety per cent or more of preparation is typically devoted to content. Countless hours go into creating and fine-tuning the presentation materials, and whatever time there is left over—if there is any time left over—is reserved for practice. Yet how you practice can literally make or break your presentation. Keep in mind that a lot of presentations die on the vine (i.e. are not effective at all) because they aren’t rehearsed properly, or they’re never rehearsed at all.
Ten Commandments for Making Powerful and Effective Sl >1. Thou shall not use a template containing distracting items
PowerPoint is software designed as a convenient way to display graphical information that would support the speaker and supplement the presentation through slides. Remember that you are the presenter, not your slides. People came to hear you and be informed or moved (or both) by you and your message. Slides are merely a visual tool to support your presentation. So, don’t let your message and your ability to tell a story spoiled by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or full of junks. Wallwork (2020, p. accentuated that you need to create a slide only if it does one or more of the these four objectives: (1) to make an explanation less complicated and quicker; (2) to help people to visualize and recall something better; (3) to make something abstract become more concrete; and (4) to attract attention or entertains the audience (but only in a way that is relevant to your topic). If a potential slide does not do any of the above, then you probably do not need to create it.
—To get the full paper, click here.
—To see a sample of a complete presentation slides, click this Using the Explicit Teaching Approach to Improve EFL Learners’ Pronunciation or to download it, click here.
Making a product presentation. Preparing, making, dealing with questions
The key to effective presentations lies in careful preparation. You need to know about your audience and their expectations; you need to identify your own objectives (do you intend to inform or persuade your audience?); you need to sequence your information in a logical way and you need to know the best ways to create and keep the audience’s interest. You should also have your audio-visual aids ready and in the right sequence and should check that the equipment is in working order.
Before you start to think about the content of your presentation, look at what you know about the audience. Ask yourself:
- Why they are attending.
- What they want to know.
- How much information they have already.
- What technical language they use or are familiar with.
If you were presenting information about road safety, your approach to an audience of parents would be quite different from your approach to an audience of policemen. Parents would be concerned primarily with protecting their children. They would be looking for advice and information on safe practices. The police, on the other hand, would be far more interested in statistics, on looking for those responsible for road accidents, on the relationship between traffic regulations and safety.
Presentations for information
If you have information to give an audience, you must decide on the most logical sequence for the material. In your introduction you should state your name, your company or organization and your credentials and the purpose of your talk:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Mary Green and I’m a consultant with the Insight Corporation. I have ten year’s experience in the field of X and the purpose of my talk today is give you the results of our recent research into Y.
It is important in the first stage of the presentation to give the audience some signposts and some approximate times. This is rather like having an agenda for a meeting; the audience knows what to expect and finds it easier to follow:
My presentation today will take about fifteen minutes and falls into three stages. First I will remind you briefly of the background to the research. Next I will spend about eight minutes outlining the results and I will conclude by talking for two or three minutes about the implications of these findings. There will be another ten minutes available at the end of my talk for you to ask questions.
As you reach the end of each stage of your presentation it is a good idea to signal this:
That concludes the background information…
and to briefly summarize the main points of that section,
and, as you can see, there are two main points to bear in mind: the effects of early research on current practices and the gaps in our knowledge that were identified.
You should then signal your move to the next stage:
Now I want to turn to the results of our recent research.
Presentations to Persuade
As with information presentations, you should give a clear introduction to yourself and your topic. However, in addition to organizing your talk in a logical fashion, you need to build up a convincing argument. You should concentrate on:
- The benefits of your standpoint.
- Compare these with the disadvantages of other approaches.
- Lead up to the conclusion that what you offer is a better alternative.
In my presentation today I am going to show you how our new product can save you between 15% and 20% of your annual energy costs… Until now, comparable products have required a high initial outlay. In contrast our prices are 30% lower than our competitors’… From what you have seen today, I am sure you will agree that what we offer not only allows the biggest per annum savings at a considerably lower price than comparable products, but that it also comes with a cast-iron warranty and an excellent after sales package.
Capturing and keeping the audience’s interest
To capture your audience’s interest, you need a lively introduction with a ‘hook’; that is to say a way of making the audience want to know more. Some ways of doing this are:
- Identify a problem you know they would like solved.
- “Trail” some new and interesting information that you are going to unveil.
- Ask rhetorical questions (questions to which you don’t expect an answer: what exactly went wrong? where does that leave us? how can we interpret this?).
Once you have the audience’s attention, you should ensure you keep it by:
- making clear, brief points
- using simple visual aids to highlight specific points (these should be vivid and with only minimal information)
- using humor if it is appropriate to your topic
- summarizing key points.
Remember that a message is conveyed not only by words but also by facial expression, posture, gestures. People say that as much of 75 percent of a message is conveyed by body language. If you are nervous, you will betray this in your body language, perhaps by pacing or repeating some gesture like touching your ear or fingering your clothing. All this can be distracting for your audience, so you might need to practice in front of a mirror or a video camera. Aim for a clear, steady gaze and look at individuals in the audience from time to time. Don’t pace or fidget or tap your toe. Try to match your facial expressions to the tone of your subject. If you find you are becoming nervous, pause for a second and take a sip of water to give you time to recover.
Dealing with questions
Questions at the end of the presentation are of four main kinds:
- Questions you can answer on the spot.
- Questions that require further information you don’t have with you.
- Questions you wish to avoid.
- Aggressive questions.
The first kind is no problem and you will deal with them as efficiently as you can. For the second kind, you should acknowledge the question as useful/important/interesting and offer to send the information on, or provide another source of information, if the questioner gives you an address after the presentation. For questions you wish to avoid, you should find some formula for politely declining to answer:
- That’s really too complicated an issue to discuss right now.
- That’s beyond my brief for today.
- I’m not really the best person to deal with that question.
If someone in the audience is asking aggressive questions, then acknowledge their anger and politely decline to get involved:
I can see you are upset/angry/disturbed by this, but this not the time to engage in an argument.
For a teaching lesson plan for this lesson see:
Effective Presentations Lesson Plan
Dealing with someone who asks many questions during presentations
While giving a presentation there is one person in the audience (X a PhD student and a friend) asking all sorts of questions, even unrelated ones. They are also eager to answer questions of others while just in the audience. X attends almost every talk in the department (info from colleagues) and shoots out his questions. During my first few weeks I consider this as good academic practice but had to change my opinion when the same occurred during my talk, with about 7-8 questions asked during a 30 minute talk; some of them were blatantly off topic (like asking why I used this numerical method over the other, which I haven’t even heard of). We attended a thesis defense in our department in which the protocol suggests that the defense committee should ask questions first in the time allotted to questions. X couldn’t wait, asks during the talk and this annoyed the committee, one of the stood up and asked X to stop!
I talked with X, and they said they are doing this to push the presenter to their limit and described the thesis committee as a bunch of idiots. X said they were very shy in their school years and worked really hard to reach this level of confidence.
Although questions are welcome during the presentation, X seems to ask questions for asking sake. They used to ask questions to compare a certain method or phenomenon with their line of research which the presenter has never even heard of.
How to deal with him if this continues (sure it will!) during one of my presentation? I don’t want to offend, as they are one of my few mates on campus.
Side Note: X’s questions are not dumb questions in reference to some comments. They are sometimes off-topic, sometimes seeking explanation on a particular terminology(during the talk). I feel the questions are being asked simply for the sake of asking a question.
3 Answers 3
You are not obligated to accept somebody disrupting your talks, particularly when the questions are off-topic and when much of the audience appears to be disapproving. The basic solution is to act as a moderator for your own talk.
For questions during your talk that you find disruptive, a simple solution is simply to say, in a calm and gentle voice, something like:
I’m going to defer that question for now. We can come back to it at the end.
During a question period, if a person is dominating the discussion, you can say something like:
I think some other people may want to ask questions as well, so I’m going to ask you to hold your questions for a bit while we hear from others.
The key here is to be firm, gentle, and impartial. Your voice should make it clear that it’s not about this particular questioner or about you being defensive, just about keeping on topic.
After you say something like this, most people will leave the question and let you come back to it later. If the questioner does not, simply repeat yourself, remaining as calm and unruffled as you can, and then move on. If the person continues to be disruptive after that point, it will be clear that they are making an unusually large problem, and others are likely to help intervene.
My main suggestion is that you complain to your advisor or the professor running the seminar. Ask them to have a word with X and get him to tone down his aggressive questioning, both during your own presentation and during others’. As his peer you are not very well positioned to make such a request of him, but it’s certainly the job of the professor in charge to help maintain a healthy and productive atmosphere during talks.
A couple of other thoughts:
From your description of X (describing the thesis committee as a bunch of idiots, making a nuisance of himself during presentation, etc.), I’m guessing he won’t last long in the graduate program, so the problem will likely solve itself in due course, and maybe even sooner rather than later.
This is a borderline unethical idea, so use it with great caution and at your own risk, but I’m thinking that X just might benefit from being given a taste of his own medicine.
 A little tip I picked up from boardroom presentations when I was in industry.
Imagine you are a keynote speaker at a conference. Begin your presentation with the words «I will respond to any questions at the end of the presentation». If anybody, including X, attempts to ask a question, repeat the words «I will respond to questions at the end of the presentation».
Create a final slide, after your summary, that says, simply ‘Any questions?’. If his motivation is to disrupt, X will probably ask far fewer questions this way.
 If X asks why you have chosen methodology Y in preference to methodology Z, think about the reasons you did use methodology Y. It is perfectly acceptable to answer that this is personal preference. If you haven’t heard of methodology Z it is also fine to say that you are familiar with methodology Y but you may consider using methodology Z in the future, when you are more familiar with it. (Do not commit to using methodology Z — your way may be better).
As the person marking your presentation, I would not penalise you for this unless methodology Z was mentioned in the assignment brief.
 Some knowledge of Education Psychology would suggest that X’s attempts to show off his expert knowledge and belittle other people by exposing the limitations of theirs are strongly suggestive of low self-esteem (or psychopathy but let’s stick with the most likely scenario). The facts that he claims to be attempting to ‘push the presenter to their limits’ and to have lacked confidence in school strongly support this. These actions may not be intentionally malicious but they may make him feel that he is a comparatively strong student and deserves to be on the course.
It appears that X is mistaking arrogance for confidence and if your friendship is strong enough, you may be able to, subtly, point out that his actions are not always interpreted by others as being assertive and confident but may be seen as arrogant or just plain annoying. Since this is a relatively new friendship, I appreciate this may be difficult, especially if you are both male and have been conditioned not to discuss such things.
However, many people who lack self-esteem respond disproportionally to praise so you could try ‘Parenting 101’ — pile praise and compliments on X, or at least make sure he realises you are ‘impressed’ when he does things you approve of (but try not to be TOO obvious) and withhold comment if he does something that most people would deem to be inappropriate. If X is seeking attention and validation, ignoring his unwanted behaviour will gradually make those actions unfulfilling for him and he will stop.
[4a] In conjunction with , it may be worth framing your answer as a question: you can respond to the first question with «Why do you ask that question?» If he answers, you are then in the rôle of questioner and have shifted the balance of power in the discussion. This will allow you take back control and regain your confidence.
[4b] For the sake of completeness, I have seen a misogynistic office bully silenced by the following technique but I would NOT be inclined to use it with young people (and as a lecturer it would be inappropriate). As his peer, if you are feeling particularly evil, you could build from [4a] and make ever more in-depth enquiries until X reaches the limit of his knowledge, which will usually take 3-4 carefully considered questions. There is a delicate balance to be struck here: don’t try to make him look stupid — apart from being morally wrong, that will just make you appear vindictive.
This is a very risky strategy. You would probably only have to do it once but it may put an irreparable strain on your friendship. However, if X is as disruptive as you suggest, it may earn the respect of your class-mates and have you considered that X may be the very reason you have few other friends?
Useful English phrases for a presentation
For many people, creating and holding a presentation involves a great deal of effort. It even leads to buck fever. To make matters worse, if the presentation has to be given in English, it often entails double the effort for native German speakers. We want to make your next presentation a bit more effortless by introducing the most useful phrases and expressions for an English-language performance.
Presentations have the advantage that many standard phrases can be used at various points. Perhaps you wish to welcome the audience, introduce the speaker and the topic, outline the structure, offer a summary, or deal with questions. In all these situations, you can apply a number of useful expressions that will make your presentation a linguistic success.
At the beginning of each presentation, you should welcome your audience. Depending on who you are addressing, you should extend a more or less formal welcome.
Good morning/afternoon/evening, ladies and gentlemen/everyone.
On behalf of “Company X”, allow me to extend a warm welcome to you.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to “Name of the event”.
Introducing the speaker
The level of formality of your welcome address will also apply to how you introduce yourself. Customize it to match your audience.
Let me briefly introduce myself. My name is “John Miller” and I am delighted to be here today to talk to you about…
First, let me introduce myself. My name is “John Miller” and I am the “Position” of “Company X”.
I’m “John” from “Company Y” and today I’d like to talk to you about…
Introducing the topic
After the welcome address and the introduction of the speaker comes the presentation of the topic. Here are some useful introductory phrases.
Today I am here to talk to you about…
What I am going to talk about today is…
I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about…
I am delighted to be here today to tell you about…
I want to make you a short presentation about…
I’d like to give you a brief breakdown of…
Explanation of goals
It is always recommended to present the goals of your presentation at the beginning. This will help the audience to understand your objectives.
The purpose of this presentation is…
My objective today is…
After presenting the topic and your objectives, give your listeners an overview of the presentation’s structure. Your audience will then know what to expect in detail.
My talk/presentation is divided into “x” parts.
I’ll start with…/First, I will talk about…/I’ll begin with…
…then I will look at…
After all this preparation, you can finally get started with the main part of the presentation. The following phrases will help you with that.
Let me start with some general information on…
Let me begin by explaining why/how…
I’d like to give you some background information about…
Before I start, does anyone know…
As you are all aware…
I think everybody has heard about…, but hardly anyone knows a lot about it.
End of a section
If you have completed a chapter or section of your presentation, inform your audience, so that they do not lose their train of thought.
That’s all I have to say about…
Drawing interim conclusions is of utmost importance in a presentation, particularly at the end of a chapter or section. Without interim conclusions, your audience will quickly forget everything you may have said earlier.
Let’s summarize briefly what we have looked at.
Here is a quick recap of the main points of this section.
I’d like to recap the main points.
Well, that’s about it for this part. We’ve covered…
Use one of the following phrases to move on from one chapter to the next.
I’d now like to move on to the next part…
This leads me to my next point, which is…
Turning our attention now to…
Let’s now turn to…
Frequently, you have to give examples in a presentation. The following phrases are useful in that respect.
A good example of this is…
As an illustration,…
To give you an example,…
To illustrate this point…
In a presentation, you may often need to provide more details regarding a certain issue. These expressions will help you to do so.
I’d like to expand on this aspect/problem/point.
Let me elaborate further on…
If you want to link to another point in your presentation, the following phrases may come in handy.
As I said at the beginning,…
This relates to what I was saying earlier…
Let me go back to what I said earlier about…
This ties in with…
Reference to the starting point
In longer presentations, you run the risk that after a while the audience may forget your original topic and objective. Therefore, it makes sense to refer to the starting point from time to time.
I hope that you are a little clearer on how we can…
To return to the original question, we can…
Just to round the talk off, I want to go back to the beginning when I…
I hope that my presentation today will help with what I said at the beginning…
Reference to sources
In a presentation, you frequently have to refer to external sources, such as studies and surveys. Here are some useful phrases for marking these references.
Based on our findings,…
According to our study,…
Our data shows/indicates…
Graphs and images
Presentations are usually full of graphs and images. Use the following phrases to give your audience an understanding of your visuals.
Let me use a graphic to explain this.
I’d like to illustrate this point by showing you…
Let the pictures speak for themselves.
I think the graph perfectly shows how/that…
If you look at this table/bar chart/flow chart/line chart/graph, you can see that…
To ensure that your presentation does not sound monotonous, from time to time you should emphasize certain points. Here are some suggestions.
It should be emphasized that…
I would like to draw your attention to this point…
Another significant point is that…
The significance of this is…
This is important because…
We have to remember that…
At times it might happen that you expressed yourself unclearly and your audience did not understand your point. In such a case, you should paraphrase your argument using simpler language.
To put it more simply,…
What I mean to say is…
So, what I’m saying is….
To put it in another way….
Questions during the presentation
Questions are an integral part of a presentation. These phrases allow you to respond to questions during a presentation.
Does anyone have any questions or comments?
I am happy to answer your questions now.
Please feel free to interrupt me if you have questions.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Please stop me if you have any questions.
Do you have any questions before I move on?
If there are no further questions at this point, I’d like to…
Questions at the end of a presentation
To ensure that a presentation is not disrupted by questions, it is advisable to answer questions at the very end. Inform your audience about this by using these phrases.
There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation.
I’ll gladly answer any of your questions at the end.
I’d be grateful if you could ask your questions after the presentation.
After answering a question from the audience, check that the addressee has understood your answer and is satisfied with it.
Does this answer your question?
Did I make myself clear?
I hope this explains the situation for you.
Occasionally, it may happen that you do not have an answer to a question. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Simply use one of the following phrases to address the fact.
That’s an interesting question. I don’t actually know off the top of my head, but I’ll try to get back to you later with an answer.
I’m afraid I’m unable to answer that at the moment. Perhaps, I can get back to you later.
Good question. I really don’t know! What do you think?
That’s a very good question. However, I don’t have any figures on that, so I can’t give you an accurate answer.
Unfortunately, I’m not the best person to answer that.
Summary and conclusion
At the end of the presentation, you should summarize the important facts once again.
I’d like to conclude by…
In conclusion, let me sum up my main points.
Weighing the pros and cons, I come to the conclusion that…
That brings me to the end of my presentation. Thank you for listening/your attention.
Thank you all for listening. It was a pleasure being here today.
Well, that’s it from me. Thanks very much.
That brings me to the end of my presentation. Thanks for your attention.
If you are not the only speaker, you can hand over to somebody else by using one of these phrases.
Now I will pass you over to my colleague ‘Jerry’.
‘Jerry’, the floor is yours.
We hope that our article will help you in preparing and holding your next presentation. It goes without saying that our list is just a small extract from the huge world of expressions and phrases. As always, the Internet is an inexhaustible source of further information. Here are the links to two websites that we would recommend to you in this context.
Google Assistant Can Now Read the News to You
A professional presentation is all about impressions. Your slides should look the part. When you know how to prepare professional-looking presentations, you can customize a PowerPoint template or create your own custom slides.
Our PowerPoint tips 10 Tips for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations with Office 2020 10 Tips for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations with Office 2020 Microsoft PowerPoint continues to set new standards. New features in PowerPoint 2020 manifest its top spot as the best option for smart and creative presentations. Read More will help you avoid common mistakes, keep your audience engaged, and create a professional presentation, in form and content.
PowerPoint Slide Design
The design can leave a first and lasting impression. Give it a professional touch to win your audience’s trust and attention.
1. Carefully Compose Your Slides
Don’t copy and paste slides from different sources. You don’t want your presentation to look like a rag rug. What you’re aiming for is a consistent look. This will help your audience focus on the essential; your speech and the key facts you’re highlighting on your slides.
To that end, use a basic template or make your own. PowerPoint comes with a w > 7 Places Where You Can Find Beautiful Presentation Templates Fast 7 Places Where You Can Find Beautiful Presentation Templates Fast Your search for last minute presentation templates comes to an end with these online resources. These template websites cover both PowerPoint and Google Slides. Read More , but you can also find free ones online.
PowerPoint Tip: When you open PowerPoint, note the search field at the top. One of the suggested searches is “presentations”. Click it to see all of PowerPoint’s default presentation templates. Choose a category on the right to narrow down your search.
Pick an easy to read font face. It’s hard to get this right, but these professional-looking Google fonts are a safe bet. Unless you’re a designer, stick to a single font face and limit yourself to playing with safe colors and font sizes.
If you’re unsure about fonts, refer to The 10 Commandments of Typography shown above for orientation.
Carefully select font sizes for headers and text. On the one hand, you don’t want to create a wall of text 9 PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid for Perfect Presentations 9 PowerPoint Mistakes to Avoid for Perfect Presentations It’s easy to screw up your PowerPoint presentation. Let’s take a look at mistakes you probably make when presenting your slideshow, and how to correct them. Read More and lose your audience’s attention. On the other, you do want your audience to be able to read the text that you consider key. So make your fonts large enough.
PowerPoint Tip: PowerPoint offers several different slide layouts. When you add a new slide, choose the right layout under Home > New Slide. To switch the layout of an existing slide, use Home > Layout. By using the default layouts, you can make coherent design changes across your presentation anytime you want.
Leave room for highlights, such as images or take home messages. Some elements should stand out. So try not to bury them in background noise but give them the space they need. This could be a single quote or a single image per page with nothing but a simple header and a plain background.
Decorate scarcely but well. If you have good content, you won’t need decoration. Your template will be decoratively enough.
Note: Restrict the room your design takes up and don’t ever let the design restrict your message.
2. Use Consistency
Consistently use font face and sizes on all slides. This one goes back to using a template. If you chose a professional presentation template, the designer will have taken care of this aspect. Stick to it!
Match colors. This is where so many presentations fail. You might have chosen a funky template and stuck to the designer’s color profile, then you ruin it all with ugly Excel charts 9 Tips for Formatting an Excel Chart in Microsoft Office 9 Tips for Formatting an Excel Chart in Microsoft Office First impressions matter. Don’t let an ugly Excel chart scare off your audience. Here’s everything you need to know about making your charts attractive and engaging in Excel 2020. Read More .
Take the time to match your visuals to your presentation design.
Text and Background Colors
A poor choice of colors can ruin your presentation.
3. Use Contrast
Black text on a white background will always be the best, but also the most boring choice. You’re allowed to use colors! But use them responsibly.
Keep it easy on the eyes and always keep good contrast in mind. If you’re color-challenged, use one of the many online tools to select a good looking color palette. Or just use a template and stick to its default colors.
PowerPoint Tip: Use PowerPoint’s Design menu to quickly change the font and color palette of your entire presentation using preset design layouts.
4. Apply Brilliance
Carefully use color to highlight your message! Colors are your friends. They can make numbers stand out or your Take Home Message pop.
Don’t weaken the color effect by using too many colors in too many instances. The special effect only works if used scarcely. Try to limit pop colors to one per slide.
Make a brilliant choice: match colors for design and good contrast to highlight your message. Use a professional color palette, to find which color will work best with your theme. Use The 10 Commandments of Color Theory shown below to learn more about colors:
Text on PowerPoint Slides
Keep It Straight and Simple. That means…
Remember that your slides are only there to support, not to replace your talk! You want to tell a story, visualize your data, and demonstrate key points. If you read your slides, you risk losing your audience’s respect and attention.
PowerPoint Tip: Afraid you’ll lose your train of thoughts? Add notes to your slides. Go to View and under Show click Notes to make them show up under your slides while editing. When starting your presentation, use PowerPoint’s presentation mode (go to Slide Show and under Monitors, check Use Presenter View), so you can glance at your notes when needed.
6. Take Home Message
Always summarize your key point in a Take Home Message. Ask yourself, if your audience learned or remembered one single thing from your presentation, what would you like it to be? That’s your Take Home Message.
The Take Home Message is your key message, a summary of your data or story. If you’re giving an hour-long presentation, you might have several Take Home Messages. That’s OK. Just make sure that what you think is key, really matters to your audience.
Make your Take Home Message memorable. It’s your responsibility that your audience takes home something valuable. Help them “get it” by making your Take Home Message stand out, either visually or through how you frame it verbally.
Images are key elements of every presentation. Your audience has ears and eyes, they want to see what you’re talking about, and a good visual cue will help them understand your message much better.
7. Add Images
Have more images in your slides than text. Visuals are your friends. They can illustrate your points and support your message.
But do not use images to decorate! That’s a poor use of visuals because it’s just a distraction.
Images can reinforce or complement your message. So use images to visualize or explain your story.
PowerPoint Tip: Need a visual, but don’t have one at hand? PowerPoint is connected to Bing’s library of online images you can use for your presentations. Go to Insert and under Images select Online Images. You can browse by category or search the library. Be sure to set a checkmark for Creative Commons only, so you don’t accidentally violate copyrights.
Note: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. In other words, if you don’t have time for a thousand words, use a picture!
PowerPoint Animations and Media
In animations, there is a fine line between a comic and a professional impression. But animations can be powerful tools to visualize and explain complicated matters. A good animation can not only improve understanding, it can also make the message stick with your audience.
8. Don’t Be Silly
Sparingly use animations and media. You should only use them in one of two cases:
To draw attention, for example to your Take Home Message.
Embed the media in your presentation How to Embed a YouTube Video & Other Media in Your PowerPoint Presentation How to Embed a YouTube Video & Other Media in Your PowerPoint Presentation Typical presentations are dull affairs with text and corporate backgrounds providing little of interest. Media files can lighten up the experience. We show you how to embed even videos. Read More and make sure it works in presentation mode. Testing your presentation at home will save you time and avoid embarrassment.
Target Your Presentation Content
Your target, i.e. your audience, defines the content of your presentation. For example, you cannot teach school kids about the complicated matters of the economy, but you may be able to explain to them what the economy is in the first place and why it is important.
9. Keep Your Audience in Mind
When you compile your PowerPoint presentation, ask yourself these questions:
- What does my audience know?
- What do I need to tell them?
- What do they expect?
- What will be interesting to them?
- What can I teach them?
- What will keep them focused?
Answer these questions and boil your slides down to the very essentials. In your talk, describe the essentials colorfully and use your weapons, i.e. text, images, and animations wisely (see above).
Note: If you fail to hit the target, it won’t matter how ingenious your design is or how brilliantly you picked colors and keywords. Nothing matters more than your audience’s attention.
10. Practice Your Presentation Like a Professional
A well practiced and enthusiastic talk will help you convince your audience and keep their attention. Here are some key points that define a good talk:
- Know your slides inside out.
- Speak freely.
- Speak with confidence—loud and clear.
- Speak at a steady pace, better too slow than too fast.
- Keep eye contact with your audience.
One Final PowerPoint Presentation Tip
I’ve shown you how to think through your entire presentation, from choosing a design to speaking to your audience. Here’s a mind trick: never try to interpret the looks on your listeners’ faces. Chances are, you’re wrong. Just assume they’re focused and taking notes.
You’ve done your best to bring them a professional PowerPoint presentation and your audience wants to learn from you. The looks on their faces aren’t doubt or confusion. It’s focus! Well, d’oh! Obviously, you’re the expert and they’re the learners. If you can get into this mindset, you can relax and perform at your best.
For your next professional presentation, try one of these PowerPoint add-ins and template resources 5 PowerPoint Add-Ins and Sites for Free Templates to Make Beautiful Presentations 5 PowerPoint Add-Ins and Sites for Free Templates to Make Beautiful Presentations Take advantage of these sites, guides, and add-ins to create a gorgeous PowerPoint presentation that wows your audience. Read More or if you need templates for PowerPoint business pitch decks 10 Awesome Business Pitch Deck Templates to Wow Your Audience 10 Awesome Business Pitch Deck Templates to Wow Your Audience These awesome business pitch deck templates give you powerful ways to communicate your ideas to the people who matter most. Read More , we have you covered there too.
Maybe you’d like another option for your sl > How to Create the Perfect Professional Presentation in Canva How to Create the Perfect Professional Presentation in Canva You may not need Microsoft PowerPoint! Canva can help you make professional presentations in half the time. Read More as well.