You don’t have to channel your inner Steve Jobs to craft an impactful presentation deck. Any student can do it with the proper guidance.
However, by learning to master the presentation tools that you have at your disposal, you can not only improve your presentations as a whole but also become a more confident public speaker.
To help with this, let’s focus on a major component of most presentations: The slide deck … or powerpoint … or prezi (which we recommend) … call it what you like.
We’ve all seen these, we’ve probably all made one and we’ve certainly all had a teacher try to teach us with one… some more successfully than others.
The first thing to remember about any slide deck is that its main purpose is to enhance your presentation, not do the presentation for you.
So, how do you use this tool to enhance the presentation?
Here are a few tips:
1. Great presentations get to the point.
Take the time to analyze what it is you’re trying to say. Only focus on the most important elements. For example, you may choose to use the slide to emphasize a quote, figure or statistic that you mention in the presentation. This may take some time and discussion when putting together the presentation, but it will allow you to create slides that are succinct and to the point. At the end of the day, your goal should be to provide a solid focal point for the audience.
2. Break down information into bite-sized pieces.
Don’t be afraid to recreate elements of your project specifically for the presentation. If you’re doing a presentation on something such as a budget or scientific study, you’re probably dealing with large figures, graphs, or tables. These are fine for the actual written assignment because the reader can take the time to carefully review them, but on a slide deck they can be hard to decipher and they can distract the audience. The same way you should summarize your thoughts, you should also summarize your information. This might involve breaking one larger graph into 3 or 4 smaller ones, each highlighting an important part of your findings.
3. Create Slideshows, not slide books.
Slides are not cue cards. Don’t rely on them to hold the script for your presentation. If that’s the case, then you may as well hand out pamphlets to your audience. The less text you have on your slides, the better. If it’s absolutely necessary to have lots of text on a slide then reveal it in incremental amounts. Make use of features such as animations so that you can make the points come in one at a time. That said, keep animations simple. Fades tend to work best.
4. Be visual.
Never underestimate the power of a good photograph. The best thing about slideshows is that they add a visual element to your presentation. Take advantage of this. Photographs can go a long way in portraying the mood or tone of the information that you’re trying to present. Video and gifs also work well, but use them sparingly as video can take up a lot of time and if a gif has too much movement it can be distracting rather than helpful.
When picking images, make sure that they’re high resolution. They can be abstract, so long as they illustrate the point you’re making. For example, you might use an image of the 100m dash to represent the fast-paced competition in your field.
5. Aesthetic is important.
Make sure your slides have a unified look to them. This look should fall in line with the presentation you’re giving. Pay attention to basic design elements such as typography, layout, and colour. These should be deliberate choices. Don’t rely on slide templates, get creative.
For typography, it’s usually best to stick to two fonts, one for titles and one for the body text. Make sure that these two fonts don’t clash visually. An example of two fonts that DON’T work well together can be seen below:
For creating professional font pairings, we recommend the site FontPair.co. It has a bunch of free font pairings you can quickly steal.
If your presentation is broken up into different sections, then you can change up some basic design elements to add variety to the presentation. For example, each of your title slides might have the same layout and font but utilize a different colour scheme. If you’re not good at creating a color scheme, we recommend the site Pigment to help you create a beautiful color scheme.
Picking the colours in your presentation is no different from picking your fonts. Make sure that they don’t clash. Using complementary colours or monochromatic colour schemes are a great way to make sure that your colours aren’t fighting for attention.
The trick here is to have visual elements that stand out just enough to enhance the presentation and keep the slide deck interesting, but not so much as to distract from the information you’re trying to present.
Putting together a slide deck takes some thought and planning. Don’t leave this part of the presentation to the night before or the morning of. Get creative and keep things simple. Making sure that each element of your presentation is strong and well thought out is the first step to becoming a more confident presenter. This is something you have control over, so have fun with it!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.