Presentation Help

The library offers free sessions on how to present more effectively. Verification of attendance can be provided if needed.

Check for new presentation sessions in the fall semester.

If you need individual assistance, schedule an appointment for presentation help.

  • Getting Started

    In order to deliver an effective, interesting, and informative presentation, you should know the following:

    • How long must my presentation last?  (Number of slides / minutes?)
    • What things am I required to include?  (Do I have to include images / sound / opening slide / closing slide / handouts?)
    • Am I being graded on the presentation only, or also how well it's delivered?

    Always assume you're being graded (or judged) by not only the presentation but how well you deliver it.  You could have a fabulous set of slides and be a terrible speaker, or you could be a terrific speaker with poor slides full of errors.  In both cases, despite your strengths, you've lost effectiveness (and possibly, credibility).

  • Creating Slides

    Text Size and Style

    Everyone in the audience must be able to see everything you show on your slides...so use these guidelines:

    • For a seminar room, use at least 20 pt. font
    • For a lecture hall, use at least 26 pt. font
    • Use an easy to read font.  Sans-serif fonts (letters with no "tails") are usually easier to read and look less cluttered on a slide  (Hint:  The typeface you're reading right now is a sans-serif type.  Times New Roman is a type with serifs.)
    • Avoid putting text in CAPITALS OR BLOCK LETTERING - it can be more difficult to read in large quantities

    Use your selected font consistently and avoid using several different styles or sizes.

    Colors and Themes

    Use colors that either fit well with your theme or convey a certain feeling that help deliver your message.  You could use ready-made templates to make color selection easier.  In PowerPoint, click the "Design" menu and see the selection of "Themes" available or visit the PowerPoint templates site for more options. A few thoughts on color:

    • Red and green are not good options, as those in your audience with color-blindness may have trouble seeing them.
    • Pink, orange, and yellow often look too faded on screen.
    • Play with colors and see what looks best and test them on a projector/screen.

    Format Options for Slides

    The introductory slide is typically a different format than the rest of your slides.  Remember, the format of the slides helps make the information interesting and easier to understand.   Here are a couple of format options:

    • Introductory slides: often formatted slightly different than the rest of your slides.
    • Heading + Bullets: a heading or title at the top and bullet points underneath.  This is usually the most common and often preferred.
    • Side-by-side:  putting items in side-by-side boxes is best for comparing them.  For further impact, open the slide with only one side visible, then reveal the other side after you have discussed the first set.
    • Images + text:  images are often a more interesting way to share information than plain text. Don't forget to label and cite images that aren't your own!

    Content

    Content is the most important part because it guides your presentation.  The content should be clear, concise, and correct.  

    Keep it simple.

    You should use few words on each slide because a slide is an outline of talking points and not text you read.  

    • No full sentences
    • No paragraphs
    • Punctuation should be minimal, simple, and used only when critical
    • List websites by name, not URL (you can give someone the address if they ask)
    • Bullets are better for lists; numbered lists are useful only when giving ordered instructions
    • Only include truly relevant information (things like slide numbers are needless and distracting)

    Too much slide text means your audience is reading the slide and not paying attention to what you say!

  • Review & Edit

    Read your slides to check for the following:

    • Did you leave out any essential information?
    • Did you remove all nonessential or irrelevant information, words, images, or punctuation?
    • Are the colors, fonts, sizes, and other design principles consistent throughout?
    • Is your message clear, easy to understand, and attractively presented?

    Once you're sure about the content:

    1. Proofread
    2. Proofread
    3. Proofread
    4. Ask others to proofread
    5. Correct any mistakes


    Proofreading is essential because if your presentation is riddled with typos and inconsistencies, your presentation is not effective. 

  • Delivery

    The first and most important step in preparing to present is to practice, practice, practice:

    • If possible, practice where you'll be presenting.
    • If that isn't possible, rehearse in a similar situation/place.
    • Practice in front of people who can give you constructive feedback.
    • Schedule a tutoring appointment for presentation help.

    Voice

    • Volume:  Make sure everyone can hear you and maintain that volume.
    • Pace:  Don't speak too slowly to hold interest or too fast for the audience to keep up.
    • Inflection:  This is the natural rise and fall of your voice.  Speaking in a monotone (all words said in the same flat tone with no differentiation) will likely bore your audience, causing them to tune you out, and your message to go undelivered.  
    • Articulation:  "Um," "uh," "er..."  These are not the sounds you want to use when speaking.  They're distracting, and can make you seem to be unprepared or less knowledgeable.  
    • Silence/Pauses:  Silence is preferable to filling the silence with "umm" and "er."  Silence when moving to a new slide allows your audience to take in the slide before you speak about the content.  Silence can also be thought of as a "pause."  Pause so you don't rush.  Pause when presenting a particularly important bit of information to emphasize the point.  Pause when you lose your place so you can find it again.

    Body Language

    • Movement:  How you enter a room says a lot about the way your presentation will go.  This is your first impression to your audience - make it a good one. Also, moving around a bit while speaking can keep the audience's attention on you.
    • Eye Contact:  Nothing will disengage your audience faster than a speaker who will not look around the room.  Scan the room periodically, but not too fast or too slow.  
    • Facial Expressions:  If you pull a great many different faces during your presentation, you may be too animated and too distracting.  Likewise, as with a monotone voice, if you make no expression whatsoever, you appear bored and uninteresting.
    • Gestures:  Using your hands to illustrate a point is something many of us do without thought.  Natural gesturing keeps you engaged in what you're saying, and keeps the audience's interest as well.  Too much will be a distraction.

  • More Tips

    Create a "S.T.A.R." moment during or at the end of your presentation.  S.T.A.R. stands for "something they'll always remember."  It can be a demonstration, a particularly fascinating fact, an image, you name it.  It's a good way to keep your presentation interesting and insure your message will be remembered.

    Do not begin or end a presentation with an apology or a self-deprecating remark ("I'm sorry, I'm so bad at this, but here goes!").  As you finish, recap the high points of what you covered.  When people ask questions, look them in the eye.  However, you should speak to the whole audience when responding.  If you don't know an answer, say so, but offer to locate the answer and follow up.  Thank your audience for their time and attention.  Walk away as confidently as you arrived.

    Are you afraid of being nervous?  Just remember that nerves keep your mind sharp and keep you on your toes.  If you think your audience can sense your nerves, don't sweat it - it lets them know you care about performing well.  Overcome too-strong nerves by:

    • being prepared (have back-up materials just in case)
    • rehearsing
    • being early
    • controlling what you can - your voice, your presentation, your appearance
    • keeping hydrated
    • not overstimulating beforehand (caffeine, for example)
    • breathing slowly and deeply to keep calm

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