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Presentation Tips & Tools: Presentations 101

Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930

Is this the kind of presentation you want to give your audience? Or this?

Don McMillan: Death by Powerpoint

Just to impress upon you how many bad slideshows there are, this is a stand-up comic whose whole routine is based on Powerpoint mistakes.

What Makes a Good Lecture

Facing the Fear

Design a Great Presentation

Public speaking anxiety, also known as glossophobia, is one of the most commonly reported social fears.

Know Your Topic
Students usually want to charge right in and start using the presentation software immediately, but spend some time preparing your research first and know what material you want to cover. Think through what you will present and in what order before beginning the project on the computer. Creating the slide show is the easy part. The best classroom presentations are created by people who are comfortable with what they are going to talk about.

Use Key Phrases About Your Topic
Good presenters use key phrases that highlight important information you want your audience to remember and focus on. Include only the most important information. Your topic may be vast, but choose only the top three or four points and make them several times throughout the presentation in the classroom.

Avoid Using Too Much Text
One of the biggest mistakes students make in classroom presentations is putting their whole speech on the slides. The slide show is meant to accompany your oral presentation. Write short notes and bullet points on slides. Use simple language and limit the number of bullets to three or four per slide at most if possible. The surrounding space will make it easier to read.

Limit the Number of Slides
Too many slides in a presentation will cause you to rush to get through them within the allotted time, and your audience will be overwhelmed, and likely end up paying more attention to the changing slide than to what you are saying. On average, one slide per minute is about right in a classroom presentation.

Plan Your Slide Layout
Make your slides easy to follow. Put the title at the top where your audience expects to find it. Phrases should read left to right and top to bottom. Keep important information near the top of the slide. Often the bottom portions of slides cannot be seen from the back rows because heads are in the way.

Avoid fancy fonts
Choose a font that is simple and easy to read such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana. You may have a really cool font on your computer, but save it for other uses. Often, those fancy fonts are not easy to read on a screen and distract more than anything. Don't use more than two different fonts, one for headings and another for content. Keep all fonts large enough (at least 18 pt and preferably 24 pt) so that people at the back of the room will be able to read them easily.

Use Contrasting Colors for Text and Background
Dark text on a light background is best. This combination offers the most visibility. Sometimes, though, you may want a dark background for effect, to dazzle the crowd. In that case, be sure to make text a light color for easy reading in a classroom presentation.

Text is often difficult to read on patterned or textured backgrounds. Keep your color scheme consistent throughout your classroom presentation.

Keep Slide Design Consistent with a Theme
When you use a design theme, choose one that will not detract from your classroom presentation. Test it ahead of time to make sure that the text will be readable and the graphics won’t get lost in the background.

Use Animations and Transition Effects Sparingly
Who doesn't love to apply animations and transitions to a presentation. Unfortunately, students often go overboard with them, placing them everywhere they can. This will be entertaining, but rarely will the audience be paying attention to the message of the presentation. Always remember that the slide show is a visual aid and not the objective of the classroom presentation.

Are you presentable?

From School LIbrary Monthly Volume 31 Number 3 December 2014/January 2015  Being Presentable (Are you Presentable?) by Kathy Frederick 

Answer these questions and think about the answers

Am I passionate about my message?

Could I speak without notes?

Do I have something really important to say?

Do I need to use PowerPoint or a visual or can I go live?

Do they focus on my slides or me?

Can they see what I’m showing?

Can I say it with fewer words?

Are my slides well designed… or just decorated?


An effective presentation is a thing of beauty: vivid slides with minimal text adn a presenter who is articulate, knowledgeable, and even entertaining.  But unfortunately many presentations suffer from such maladies as PowerPoint bullet mania, Prezi motion sickness, and presentations read as scripts. What, then, makes a successful presentation? 

Planning is key!  Map out the ideas and concepts that need to be included. Look for ways to streamline, so that the final product packs a punch!

Choose images that highlight what the slide is addressing. Look for copyright friendly images. 

What is on the screen should not mimic or replace what is being said.

Write out what will be said, then highlight key words to use on slides. Revise, hone, and pare down to bare essentials.  Keep the full notes as your presentation script. 

Break the "word-full" screen syndrome.  Limit the amount of text on each slide!

Think of bullet points as headlines--not lengthy sentences!

Size text for easy reading.  Minimum font size -- 28 point. 

Be judicious in the use of transitions and, in the case of Prezi, make zooming purposeful. 

Practice your presentation! Practice with anyone willing to give you constructive criticism.  Or, tape yourself presenting and review what is terrific and what is you want to change!




What is Ignite?

Promoted under the slogan, “Enlighten us, but make it quick,” Ignite is a presentation format where a presenter speaks while slides advance automatically to support them. An Ignite presentation is exactly 5 minutes, and contains exactly 20 slides. The slides advance automatically after each slide is displayed for 15 seconds.

With fixed timing and clear constraints, the Ignite style is suitable for many situations, including classroom presentations, Toastmasters meetings, and both corporate and conference events.

Ignite PresentationsConventional presentation
Length 5 minutes Varies
# of Slides 20 0 or more
Time per slide 15 seconds per slide Varies from slide to slide

7 C's of Effective Communication


Thanks to Karyn Silverman of Elisabeth Irwin HS (NY) for sharing her guide as a template!