5 Tips for Powerful Presentations

We’ve all sat through THOSE slide presentations, right? The kind where the misguided presenter cuts and pastes their entire speech on to the slides and then proceeds to read them verbatim? Seriously, just give me the speech and I’ll read it for myself! Or the kind where the excited student realizes they can make words or pictures bounce or fly onto the screen one at a time and so creates a presentation that ends up leaving you feeling slightly motion-sick? 

A good presentation teaches or informs us but also entertains us. Easy to say, but not always easy to do! I’ve been creating presentations on a fairly constant basis for the last 15 years or so, and while I like to think I’m pretty good at it, I know I still make design mistakes and it still can take me an entire evening to craft a powerful presentation. So, here, after many years of learning the hard way, are my top 5 tips, to spare you (and your audience) from anguish!

Tip One: What’s A Picture Worth?

You got it…a thousand words! The most effective presentations I’ve ever seen are the ones delivered by TED and TEDx speakers – they’re (by design) light on text and heavy on images. No one wants to read your slides – they want you to do the heavy lifting for them! Tell them a story or communicate your ideas using pictures/images and they’ll be interested. Make sure your pictures or images are clear, in focus and not distorted and make them as big as possible. The people in your audience will thank you!

Tip Two: Make the Words Count

If you are going to limit the words you use, make sure they have impact. Yes, there are literally thousands of cool fonts out there but you don’t need to use all of them! (I personally struggle with this one!) Choose one or two fonts that work with your theme and stick with them. Try not to choose fonts that are hard to read or too thin to have impact. And make sure the fonts stand out from the background – don’t use red font with an orange background unless you have a very compelling reason to do so.

Photo by Zainab Aamir on Pexels.com

Tip Three: Don’t Let The Crayon Box Throw Up!

There’s a reason that apps like Google Slides, Keynote and Powerpoint will “suggest” a colour theme. Some colours go well together and some don’t. While I don’t have the room here for a full explanation of colour theory,  I will say this: if you’re not confident with colour there’s nothing wrong with sticking to one background colour and making your font either white or black. If you like playing with colour, there are two sites that I find helpful (this one and this one. But really, try to limit the colours you use to 5 or fewer.

Tip Four: Meet My Team

Most people stick to one method of presenting. I use three as they each do different jobs well. I like to think of them as people and I choose different “people” to work with, depending on what I’m presenting.

Microsoft Powerpoint

PowerPoint is a business woman in a power suit and heels. One of the industry standards, Powerpoint works well and is great for “business” type presentations. I don’t use it if I want to do something more artistic. 

Apple Keynote

Keynote is kind of like the vegan programmer who rides an electric bike and works at the coolest start-up in town. After attending the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute last summer I have a new admiration and renewed interest in Keynote. It’s artistic, flexible and versatile. 

Google Slides

Slides is like that person we all know who is somewhat quiet and unassuming on the surface but the minute you dig deeper, you find they’re much more complex than you thought! Slides is not quite as artistic as Keynote and it doesn’t have all the functionalities of Ppt, but it’s an awesome middle ground. Perhaps one of my favourite functionalities of Slides is the ability to seamlessly collaborate with other people. 

Tip Five: Don’t Memorize

If you’re creating a presentation to teach your class about something, chances are that you already know that topic well and there is no need to worry too much about writing down what you need to say, as you’ve likely been teaching it for awhile!

But what if you’re presenting to parents? Or you’ve been asked to present to the school board or to a roomful of teachers at a Pro-D conference? For many people, these scenarios are intimidating. You don’t want to forget what to say so you write a script for yourself and then spend hours memorizing it. Don’t! It’s okay to write a script to organize your ideas but then pull out the main points that go with each slide and just use those. Know your topic well enough that you can “tell the story” but not so well that you sound like an over-rehearsed automaton. If you have important statistics or numbers, include those on the slide so you don’t forget them (but for heaven’s sake, don’t put all your info on the slide – see Tip One!) Practice your presentation for timing. I find about 20 slides gets me an hour long presentation but I’ve also done 5 minute, 15 slide presentations so you need to see what works for you.

Hopefully these tips can help you (or your students) become more confident presenters!

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