Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations
Presentations in PowerPoint (& other software) are used to enhance learning by presenting information through the use of spoken words combined with the display of graphics (illustrations, charts, photos, graphs, animations & videos) and written words. The best presentations are designed to reduce extraneous distractions and allow the learners to focus their limited processing capacity on organizing and making sense of relevant material.
- Articulate the thesis of your talk (1-3 key ideas) and eliminate extraneous details.
- Use a hook or story to get the learners interested in the talk at the beginning.
- Provide advanced organizing information (e.g., an outline) to guide the learners.
- Structure the talk by -
- Telling the learners what you're going to tell them.
- Telling them.
- Then telling them what you told them.
- Remember: Less is More
- Develop no more than 1 slide for each minute of the talk
- Limit each slide to 1-2 points
Consistency: Use consistent fonts, colors, backgrounds, layout & transitions except when signaling important information.
Fonts: Make text easy to read by
- Selecting sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Comic Sans, Papyrus and Tahoma), which are easier to read than serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Courier, Didot or Bookman).
- Using indentations to structure text
- AVOIDING TEXT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, AS IT IS HARD TO READ!
- Using at least 30 points for titles, 24 points for body text and 18 points for any other text on a slide.
Colors and Backgrounds: Use contrasting colors for your text and background.
- White or Yellow text can be read on a dark background
- Dark letters against a light background also work well.
- Some combinations do not work
- and are difficult to see
- Avoid Red-on-Green because the color-blind cannot read it.
- Avoid image or multi-color backgrounds, which are difficult to read & distracting.
Transitions: Avoid transition between slides other than a simple fade, as they distract students’ attention from the essential material.
Text: Use text to highlight organization and to help learners focus on essential elements.
- Minimize the use of text and omit needless words (see e.g., Strunk & White)
- Place all labels near graphics as spatial continuity helps learners build connections.
- Write out equations ONLY when the terms are salient to your main point and you will explain them.
Graphics & Visuals: Good graphics and images illustrate key points and help learners visualize data and the relationships between ideas.
- Add annotations & labels so that the meaning of a figure is communicated visually to complement your oral explanation.
- Enlarge and re-label figures so that they are easy to read.
- Avoid low-resolution images, which are difficult to see.
- Highlight key items in a table or figure through the use of colors, boxes and zoom to direct the audience’s view and to signal key points.
- Avoid irrelevant graphics as they can confuse learners and distract them from key points.
- When showing complex figures, use animation to assemble parts of your slide in stages.
· Practice, practice & then practice more
- Explain, then show: Signal key points and highlight the organization of material before advancing to a new slide to help learners focus on essential material.
· Don’t read slides word-for-word, redundant presentations of information waste precious processing capacity.
· Assume all eyes are on a new slide as it goes up, pause before speaking when showing a new slide.
· Explain graphs carefully
· Listen carefully to each question, repeat it and then provide a composed answer.
References & Further Reading
- Classroom Communication & Public Speaking (From the Sheridan Center)
- Metacognitive and Aesthetic Design of Presentation Slides (PowerPoint) by Steve Semken (ASU) from the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.
- Research-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Instruction by Richard E. Mayer (2014). In V.A. Benassi, C.E. Overson, & C.M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum.