The PPT "effect"

PowerPoint. A great tool. Before going on I must say that I am not a PowerPoint wizard nor are my PowerPoint slides and presentations the quintessence of PPT. I do have experience teaching how to give a PPT presentation though and have assessed many students presentations at an academic level (in the UK). So, I thought I would give my views on what makes a good presentation.
The slides:

  • Avoid using too many colours on your slides. This is a presentation not a rainbow. Also, make sure  your colours do not contrast. Seriously, you do not want your audience squinting unless you are an eye doctor looking for patients.
  • I would suggest font size more than 28pts and in the margin. The margin is there for a reason. Stick to it.
  • Make sure the accompanying pictures are related to what you are saying. Sure teddy bears are great but they do not go with everything!
  • Avoid long texts. Bullet points are more effective as your audience can focus on what is one the slides. If you cannot remember everything make notes on cards but please avoid mega giga texts. You will lose your audience who will be trying to read what you have written and not focus on what you are saying.
  • Graphs/pie charts. They are very important. Try not to use raw data tables as they are tiring and do not reveal much information (your audience will have to figure out what you are trying to point out- is that what you really want?). Try using pie charts and diagrams which have percentages on them and different colours. Use visual aids which allow your audience to see what you are talking about.
  • Animations. Now they are fun and flashy right? They are a great way to attract your audience but they may also have the opposite effect. Use them with caution and prefer using one or two types of animation patterns throughout your PPT presentation.

How the PPT should be organised:
Your PPT is like a book. Have a contents page=an overview. Your audience needs to know what you are going to talk about and this is a great way to guide him. Then you talk about what you want to talk about. After have a slide with references/bibliography/links and a thank you slide.
Your presentation:
Be confident. You made the presentation so no one knows better than you what it is about. Prepare. A good way to prepare is by recording yourself while presenting at home. Then you can look at yourself and improve what you have done so far. Look at your audience. Do not fidget but do move around a bit to make your presentation more vibrant. Please, oh please hands out of pockets : )
Interact with your audience whenever possible and turn off the lecture mode. You want your audience engaged not asleep. Also, allow time for questions otherwise why even have the presentation? You can just sit in front of a mirror and talk to yourself!
A practical point: Do not just save your presentation on a USB stick. Email yourself/save it on your hard drive. Also make handouts of your presentation. Some people like making notes and having your slides on paper with lines will help them with that. It is also helpful for people who cannot see from far away.
Finally, and this is probably the cornerstone of any presentation, Smile.
I would really appreciate any other ideas on the Do’s and Don’ts of PPT presentations. They are used widely at conferences and are an integral part of the academic scene.


5 thoughts on “The PPT "effect"

  1. Spot on, Joanna! You don't even mention effects, of course they don't have a place in the kind of presentations you're talking about, but some people like to experiment, which doesn't usually enhance the slides.
    Another thing that I came to hate in the past couple of months as a student, having to endure some (ok, I'm polite) unhelpful ppts (and being treated to some good ones), is cartoons. If every other slide contains a cartoon or funny picture or whatever (including the odd carrot – no joke, but Joanna you'll get it!), the audience is drawn to that, away from the actual text and away from listening, figuring out what it shows, why it's funny, getting the joke, and then maybe trying to relate it to the content of the slide/presentation, by which time you have missed your opportunity to get your point across.
    Goes with your point 3 about pictures. Jokes/cartoons, even if relevant, should be used with caution, and if you have to, factor in the time it takes the audience.


  2. Sorry, I meant the special effects, like things (or your text) flying in or carrots zooming up and down the slide. Animations would be the correct term, sorry about the confusion!


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