I want some help with using Powerpoint, pictures, hand-outs or the visualiser for my presentation.

Most spoken presentations are improved by including some kind of visual information. However, this varies considerably between disciplines. For example, in Philosophy it is very unusual to use Powerpoint or other forms of visual support. On the other hand, in many science and design disciplines, it is essential to use contemporary technology and/or additional visual support such as digital or physical models. You need to know what the expectations are for your discipline and for the specific presentation task you are preparing; analyse any instructions closely and don’t hesitate to ask for more information.

If you use Powerpoint or other presentation software, there are some standard tips to follow:

  • Only put a few points on each slide.
  • Use a few keywords, instead of full sentences.
  • Use a fairly simple background and style for your slides.
  • Do not use visuals which are distracting – e.g. animated emoticons or flashing text.
  • If you show your audience a slide with a lot of information on it, e.g. a table or quotation, stop talking for a few moments to give them time to read and understand it.

Paper hand-outs are good to use for information which people may need to look at later (e.g. your contact details, or a summary of the key points). They are also a good place to put very ‘dense’ information which won’t fit on slides (e.g. the list of references, extended data, tables or figures). However, be aware that if you give people a paper hand-out at the beginning of your presentation, it will always take some of the attention of the audience away from what you are saying. For this reason, it is wise to limit the amount of information on a hand-out, and/or to give paper hand-outs at the end, if possible.

If you are using equipment which is new to you, it is sensible to go to the location of your presentation beforehand, and make yourself familiar with it. For example, how do you adjust the zoom of the visualiser? Do you know how to move the projector screens up and down? Will the projector be on already, or will you need to switch it on and wait for it to warm up before your presentation starts? The University’s ICT Helpdesk provides both telephone support and online help videos for using the audiovisual equipment on campus (see ICT link on the right).

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...