Tips on Presentations

Note that I am not an expert on presentations, so these suggestions are just my personal and subjective ideas. But they are based on actual problems I've witnessed at presentations I've attended (as a member of the audience, or as a presenter).

Make the Text and Images Legible

Ensure text is big enough to be read at the back of the audience.

Make sure that people at the back can see the bottom part of the display - move the sheet up on the projector if necessary.

Leave wide margins all around an overhead sheet. (They often curl at the edges).

Don't move between the projector and the screen, as it casts a prominent shadow. Find out before the presentation where you can move without affecting the image.

Make the Information Understandable

Don't put too much information on a single sheet. Five main points per sheet is a resonable maximum (seven at a push).

Pictures are often better than text.

Give the audience a brief moment to absorb each new image after presenting it. Let them see the whole sheet.

If appropriate, blank-off items that you are not currently discussing to prevent the audience being distracted by them.

Use the time during sheet changes to pose a question which the next sheet answers. This helps the audience put the next sheet in context.

Ensure your talk has a definite introduction, body, and summary.

Word the summary carefully, so the audience know it is a summary, and that the presentation has ended.

Try not to swap back and forth between visuals.

Make the Speech Intelligible

Speak slowly.

Keep talking while changing each sheet. Long pauses can be embarrassing.

Any pauses should be deliberate and controlled. (Perhaps to allow the audience to consider a point you have just made.)

Try not to talk from a script - trust your memory and use brief notes (such as the overheads themselves). Talking from memory makes the speech simpler, improves the tone of the speaker's voice, and allows the speaker's to interact with the audience more.

Make Life Easy for Yourself

Use heavy paper for covering parts of the image which you want to hide. This prevents the blanking sheet from sliding off the overhead projector.

Overhead sheets are difficult to handle. Use a ring binder to store them, and separate the sheets by a plain piece of paper to make them easier to identify.

Store visuals in order, so you don't have to struggle to find the next one, or a previous one.

Don't fiddle with the sheets whether they are on display or on the desk.

Have a fall-back plan in case the overhead/slide projector breaks-down. Make sure a flip-chart or whiteboard and pens (for instance) are available.

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Copyright © Neil Carter

Content last updated: 2003-10-09