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1. Don’t turn on the computer!
It is tempting to start to prepare a presentation by opening PowerPoint and typing text or adding graphics straight away. However, it is generally best to start thinking about your presentation away from the computer and to create your slides only when you have a clear idea about the structure and the content of your presentation.
2. What is the point that you are trying to put across to your audience?
If the delegates go away knowing one thing about your presentation, what should it be? In addition to this, consider the must know, should know and could know points for your presentation. You will need to make sure that the delegates have been told the must know, but be ruthless about whether they also need to be aware of the should know information. Don’t worry about including any could know material.
3. Storyboard your presentation
Map out what you are going to say, or what information you are going to present, in each slide. You could use a series of Post-it notes for this – which are easy to re-arrange – or simply draw a series of empty boxes into which you can sketch how your presentation will appear and in what order you will present your information.
4. Two rules for PowerPoint presentations
Whilst drafting your storyboard consider the following two rules:
a) You should have no more than one slide per minute of your presentation (i.e. for a 15-minute talk, you should have no more than 15 slides).
b) Aim for no more than 6 lines per slide, 6 words per line and 6 continuous slides of text (i.e. a text-rich presentation should be broken up by a slide with an image, graph, video, sound clip, or some other form of interaction) – the ‘666 rule’.
There may be occasions when it is necessary to break these rules, but these should be exceptions rather than the norm!
5. Consider the slide layout
Make sure that there is a strong contrast between the colour of your text and the background colour of the slide. Resist the temptation to overlay text onto images or other similar ‘fussy’ background.
Ensure that the font size is appropriate so that everyone can read what you have written. In general, the minimum point size that you should be aiming for is 34 point for titles and 24 point for the main body text. Use a sans serif font such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana or Tahoma (i.e. fonts without the little strokes at the ends of letters). Use standard fonts that are likely to be available on the computers at the venue.
Stick to one or two font types for the whole presentation (e.g. one for the title and one for the main body of the text), and keep the presentation consistent throughout (i.e. don’t change the background or text colours unless there is a specific reason to do so, such as highlighting different information).
AVOID USING LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS, as these can be difficult to read. The same is true for italic and underlined text. (In the latter case, delegates may think that it is a hyperlink to additional information.)
6. Writing your presentation
When you are adding content, think about what you are going to be saying about each slide. Make sure that the text on the screen matches your narrative. Don’t say one thing whilst showing something different, as the delegates will not know whether to read your slides or listen to what you are saying; they can’t do both effectively.
It is good to include some graphical material if possible (and where relevant to do so), such as photographs, graphs, bar charts etc. Make sure that the images are clear and uncluttered. Only include necessary labelling information on graphs and charts to clarify what is being shown.
If you are using photographs or other images, make sure that they are your own or that you have permission to use them. Do not use photographs that have been downloaded from a website unless it is clear that the copyright permissions allow you to do this (for example, photographs published under certain types of Creative Commons licence – see http://creativecommons.org/image/). For a list of ‘open’ source image sites, see http://www.glos.ac.uk/tli/lets/projects/pathfinder/.
Unless you know what you are doing, it is generally advisable to avoid using transition effects between and within slides; however, if you do feel the need to use transitions then keep them simple and consistent. Stick to one or two different styles for the whole presentation.
When building slides with lots of bullet points, consider whether you really need to reveal each bullet point individually. Showing all the bullet points at once will help to reduce the number of times you click the mouse / use a clicker / use the keyboard. There may be times when it is appropriate and necessary to reveal bullet points one at a time, but this is not always the case.
9. The end of the presentation
Make sure that you finish with a slide that summarises your presentation and clearly articulates your conclusions.
Include a blank slide after your conclusions so that if you accidentally go to the next slide you don’t end up with the ‘End of slide show, click to exit’ black screen. Finishing on a blank slide will make it look as if this was planned and clearly shows that you have finished your talk. It also keeps you within the Slide Show view, which is helpful for the next point...
10. Prepare for questions
Know the slide numbers for your presentation. You can do this easily by quickly numbering a print-out of your presentation or using the Header and Footer feature within PowerPoint, although it is recommended that the slide numbers are only used for printing and are hidden for the presentation itself. If you know the slide number you can go straight to the slide without having to scroll backwards and forwards through your whole presentation. This is particularly useful during questions when someone refers back to an earlier slide. To go to a specific slide, simply type in the number and then press the Enter key (you must be within the Slide Show view in order to use this feature).
Prepare in advance for any questions that you might be asked. Additional slides that address these potential questions can be included after the blank slide that indicates the end of your presentation. By knowing the slide numbers (see above) you can jump straight to any relevant slide that will help to answer the question.
It may be useful to black-out the screen at points during, or at the end of, the presentation, so that the delegates concentrate on what you are saying rather than staring at the screen. In this case, whilst still in Slide Show view, press the ‘b’ key to make the screen go black. Pressing the ‘b’ key again will return to the normal view. (A similar effect is caused by pressing the ‘w’ key, but this will make the screen go white.)
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