Tips for Presentations (Mainly Powerpoint)

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Tips for Presentations (Mainly Powerpoint)

Post by escapee » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:52 pm


This wiki has been amalgamated from everyone’s great suggestions in this thread.

Thank you everybody.

Before the Presentation


-Think about what you're wearing - it sounds vacuous, but if you feel attractive/interesting/whatever you want, you'll not worry about that part. LOTS of deodorant if you think you'll be shy. Don't wear silly shoes - I've lost a high heel crossing a stage in front of 150 psychiatric liaison nurses
-Presenting yourself nicely is every bit as important as presenting your slides nicely. Wearing something that makes you feel good and gives off an air of professionalism is a good idea.
-It helps if your default face is smiling. This keeps your tone of voice more enthusiastic and allows your audience to connect more.


-Practice with someone who you feel comfortable with, who can give you constructive feedback. This will also help you work out timings.
-Practice out loud!!! Do a dry run through (or 6) in front of the cat/dog/child/other half/friend, that way you will notice what you stumble on- if anything and what you might need to refine. It might help overcome the nerves when giving it for real is actually the 7th time you have given the presentation.

Designing the Presentation

-On the front slide make your background a whole picture relevant to your powerpoint presentation (with the title, your name, contact details etc written over it). I find there’s always a little time between getting the front slide up and actually starting so people notice this front slide. It makes you look a bit more interesting too. I've always had a few ooohs and arrrs when I've done this.


-It’s really important to use a large font size that people at the back will be able to read. Don't overcrowd your PowerPoint slides - at very least font size 14!
-Make it easy for your audience to take in the information by using clear slides in a basic font (fancy things are hard to read and take longer to process). Apparently Comic Sans is one of the most difficult fonts to read, something like Arial is much easier.


-Outside of the colours inherent in charts and graphs, use no more than two complimentary colours outside of the foreground and background selections in your slides. Using a lot of colours can be confusing and give a poor impression. A bad mix of any colours can be equally confusing, so stick to tried and tested colour pairings, such as light gray and dark blue (or dark gray and orange, as used on this site).
-Keep the base colours complimentary, make sure that your background and text are highly contrasted to make them easier to read, text should always be in a dark colour (preferably black) and your whitespace or background colour should be extremely light (preferably white).


-Slides should be on-screen for no longer than two minutes unless you feel yourself to be an excellent orator. Changing slides can give you a breather and allow yourself a little time to regain your composure if needed. Personally I have found it easier to engage with people if there are more slides with less points on them than the other way around. A new slide not only gives you a breather, it can also help to refocus the audience on the presentation.
-I find it's useful to know whether you tend to speed up or slow down when nervous, so you can consciously counter these tendencies.
-I've been told to do one slide per minute, but when I've seen presentations from the people who told me this, they always run over...
-I prefer to plan one slide per 4-5 minutes, put on bullets of key points and talk round them. This depends on the purpose of the presentation though. You might want to go through slides quicker to get more information on them.
-Leave time at the end for your audience to ask you questions.


-Don't have reams and reams of text, you should be able to summarise the content into a few key points for the slides. You are there to explain these and talk about them, not read things off the slide (people could do that themselves). This also helps you be more natural and engaging, as you are talking and explaining things to your audience rather than concentrating on reading things out. The text should just be 'anchor points' to focus your audience.
-Talk around your points. 8 or 10 words per line no more. Elaborate on these.
-Make sure your slides are for your audience, not for you. Minimize how much text is on there and don't use slides to prompt you to remembering things -- that's what your notes are for, should you need them.
-I like to think about it in terms of primacy and recency effects - and how to help ensure people remember the most important stuff from your presentation. So think carefully about what you put in your intros and endings!
-Give learning aims and a good introduction, tell people what you're going to tell them, tell them, after you've done it- tell them what you told them in a conclusion!
-Keep it simple
-Represent information visually where possible (e.g. chart, diagram, table, figure, etc.) to simplify it and make things easier for your audience to take in.
-Don't mention a theory/model/study that you have not explained, it's nice for the audience to know what you're talking about!
-Use examples of clinical situations and/or case studies if possible as it generates discussion and makes the topic come 'alive' or it does for me anyway!


-NO silly animations, don’t overdo it on pictures for the rest of the presentation (UNLESS you want to make it easy accessible reading e.g., if service users are present).
-When designing your slides, avoid clipart and fancy borders; they usually come across at best as 'informal'.
-I tend to prefer presentations on powerpoint without clipart - I think clipart can look a bit tacky and 'try hard' in an amateur kind of way. Having said that diagrams are GREAT.
-I did go to a conference once on pain management and a neuropsychologist speaker (can’t remember his name) kept putting random irrelevant pictures in the middle of his presentation which was actually quite funny and kept the audience interested. Like so... bla bla neuropathic pain.... and here is a picture of a penguin....

Before you Begin

-Copy your presentation to the desktop, don't run it off a memory stick
-Save your presentation in at LEAST 2 formats, just in case your uni's Mac network doesn't recognise Windows PowerPoint 2007 and forces the entire cohort to go running to the computer room to re-save their presentations as Windows 97-2003 (thereby ruining the layout of many slides) .....

The Actual Presentation

-Remember to introduce yourself!
-Speak slowly and clearly and smile!
-Invite people to contribute if you're happy with this- but if not ask for questions to wait until the end
-Try not to turn your back on the audience.
-Sit down if it makes you feel more confident.


-I always get a dry mouth when I’m nervous so I make sure I have a glass or bottle of water. (although a glass is less fiddly).
-I felt like I was drinking loads and that it made me look nervous by constantly drinking, but was told after that by taking a drink it just made me look relaxed and confident!
-When it comes to the actual presentation, look at a point that is at the back of the audience, in the centre and it will look like you're looking at them.
-When you say “erm” in a presentation what you're really trying to do is to fill in all of the spaces and a much better strategy is to breathe instead. This makes the presentation much easier to listen to and makes you sound more professional.
-Find a few people in the audience who look interested and make eye contact with them (not for too long, obviously).
-I've been a trainer for the last few years, so I present about 2 - 3 days per week (usually full days, but sometimes 90 minute briefings etc). I still get nervous if it's a group that I think might be less amenable to my training topics, so try and remember that it's really, really normal to get anxious, and that people are usually very compassionate towards any presenter who doesn't actively offend/annoy/patronise them.
-It is nice to use a bit of humour - and if people laugh it can really help to relax you and to get them on your side. HOWEVER - in my experience most of what you say is never as funny or well received as you think it might be. Then when you get deadly silence it can knock your confidence a bit. My advice would be to think carefully before using humour. Having said that I have seen it used very well.
-Public speaking is one of the multitude of things that makes me blush like crazy, so in order to stop me getting embarrassed about turning pink (which makes my blushing worse), I often mention it or make a joke about it at the beginning (better for more informal presentations)
-The ONLY thing that makes me less nervous is knowing the topic inside out, backwards, and so on.
-My top tip is to sing all the way to your presentation, even if you have to arrive well in advance. If you start quiet, it'll warm up your throat, so you don't hurt it with nerves. When you've warmed up (even hummm-mumm-mumm noises), try a belter like Lulu's 'Shout' or similar - it'll use up some of your adrenaline, and let you get used to the sound of your own voice, so it doesn't sound weird in your head when you start.

Discussing the slides

-Adding to what everyone else has said...don't read the slides verbatim (this really bugs me as the person is just reading what I have just read from the screen and doesn't add anything to it). I think the best slides are those with a few points which the presenter elaborates on and talks around.
-Don't ream off loads of statistics.
-I am completely unable to read and listen at the same time, so I like it when people pause to allow reading time when they put a new slide up. I try to do this when presenting and it gives me a breathing space. If there's a lot of text, I can't help but read it and end up not hearing the speaker.


-Remember, YOU are the expert! You know more about whatever it is you're presenting than your audience. Even if they ask you tough questions, you will be able to learn from them. But they are probably genuinely interested and not going to be overly critical.
-Remember people are (usually) there watching your presentation because they want to and have some interest in the topic so you have a bit of a headstart.
-I would disagree with anyone who suggests that confidence can be found in presuming you will be the only expert in the room. Prejudging your audiences ability is frequently an error in judgement, where you can find out about your intended audience, do so. If not, make no assumptions about their respective abilities outside of what can be sensibly qualified.
-Above all, TALK to your audience and interact with them, there's nothing more boring than someone reading things off busy slides that are crammed with information! There's some really good examples of effective presentations on the TED talks website (the content is really interesting too!), which are good for observing good presenters and noticing what they do well so you can try and develop these skills in your own presentations.
-Imagine you’re the audience- what would you want to hear about?
-Know your audience and target the presentation at the right level accordingly, or if that’s not possible check in with people at the start. It’s frustrating to have something pitched at a level that’s either too basic or way above your level of understanding.

Involving the Audience

-Roleplays can also be an excellent way of getting the audience engaged in your material and be can a great focus point for discussion of ideas. We used a roleplay recently to get the audience to discuss with us issues surrounding dual diagnosis.
-Use tasks to break the ice/keep people interested.
-I've seen audience tasks used to great effect. An OT recently presented on how to motivate clients and as part of her presentation got the entire audience to make a simple book. She showed us how to do the task, then provided all the equipment to do it. Afterwards, she guided us throughout the OT task assessment form, which we were much better equipped to contribute to having just completed a task first hand.
Keep it interactive to keep people's interest. But I would say make sure any activities meaningful rather than "filler"!

Asking Questions

-If you are asking the audience a question (which is a great way of engaging them) make sure it is specific.
-As an audience member I always try and answer questions as I know what it is like to get everyone sat in silence. However when you ask for an idea without setting the context people are not really sure what you want as a response and are too scared to answer in case they are barking up the wrong tree. My advice would be to think - would this question make sense out of context of this presentation if it stood alone. If not it is likely that you made an assumption when composing the question because you know the answer you are trying to elicit. I see this issue all the time when watching presentations. If you are starting a verbal brainstorm - giving an initial example to get them going often helps.

Taking Questions

-Another good point that I took from someone else’s presentation is to open up and lead questioning at the end - they used like their own questions that others could try answering. What do you think we could do next? That way there might be less of a focus on you answering correct answers.

General tips

-Personally, I don't give handouts until after a presentation (but I say at the beginning that I will do this, so people don't need to take notes) as it often distracts people.
-If you write on the flipchart - stand to the side not in front of it so people can't see it. Or get a volunteer to write up for you. Use small case not capitals.
-I sat through an NHS trust induction yesterday (i know - please feel sorry for me) and I noticed that the speakers who were best received weren’t the ones who had the most interesting topics but the ones who projected their voice the most and sounded confident and enthusiastic.

Final Point

-Remember that the audience is usually gunning for you to do well - people genuinely want to be interested by you, and it's only the real prats who are hostile. Good luck - you'll be grand! I can guarantee you that I have made a total prat of myself more times than I can say when presenting, and I lived to tell the tale (although I did wish I'd just die after the high heel job) Sigh!

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Post by bex4010 » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:58 pm

That is all really useful! Thanks for doing that.

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Post by Alexander » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:17 pm

While I know it is well intentioned, I would suggest that advising people that they don't need to make notes is a little misleading. If literally all the information that will be discussed during the presentation is on the powerpoint and handouts, then you've not done a very good presentation - as presenter you've got to add something to it yourself! There is usually a wealth of information the presenter divulges in talking around the discussed subject which is never included in the slides. Without notes you'd never recall it all. I would make this point explicitly. Tell people they're going to get the handout, but to keep their pens ready because there's going to be a huge amount of information and the handout can't contain it all (without becoming a tome).

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