Oral presentations, given before any audience, need preparation. Speaking about a topic that you are enthusiastic about will naturally awaken the interest and curiosity of others.
Here are some principles of good design to help you make a good presentation:
Make an Outline
Make a rough outline of your presentation. Begin with main headings, and then add details afterwards. Be sure to develop your presentation in a logical manner. The easier a speech or oral presentation is to follow, the more the audience will remember what it is about.
Know Your Audience
Always be sure you know to whom you will be giving your presentation. Giving a presentation in front of a class of teenagers, whom you already know, will be different than giving a talk in front of a group of parents or a special group of working professionals. Adjust the use of multimedia, graphics, design and audios/visuals to the age group. If the talk is supposed to be a serious one based on The Melting of the Ice Caps, you don’t want to put in loud flashy fonts and funny graphics and clip-art.
Choose the same color scheme, font size, type and bullet style on all the slides. Choose one design or layout on the master slide and keep to it. Too many font sizes, colors and types can make your presentation visually confusing and the audience might have a hard time figuring out what is most important. Always think of what you want to organize (regular fonts) and what you want to emphasize (Bold, Italics, underline)
Less is more
A common mistake is including too many visual elements: pictures, animations etc. It is a good rule of thumb to keep it simple. The rule, “less is more” should be applied to any presentation. Too much information and too many special effects can be confusing for an audience and distract from the main message.
Suggestions of how to limit the amount of information per slide.
- three to five slides with text per major heading
- one main heading per slide
- not more than six to seven words per line
- not more than six to seven lines per slide
- use bullet points under your major headings
Use big fonts
Depending on the room in which you will be giving your presentation, titles could be up to 36 -40 points in size and text 24 points in size. A common mistake is a presentation written in too small a font size where the audience cannot see the words from the back of the room.
Using big letters reduces the space available for graphics. Also remember that elements in your presentation do well with some space around them. Thus you should not use bigger text size than required.
You should always contrast text and background. Either use a light text on a dark background or a dark text on a light background. You may have to take the lighting in the room into consideration. In a bright room, for example, where you cannot close the curtains, use a light background and a dark text. Think visual balance!
Images, graphics and animation
Images, graphics and clip art should always compliment the text. A good idea is to limit the number of pictures, charts or graphs to one per slide. Pictures can easily be grouped together. Don’t spread them out on all sides of the text. Be sure that the colors of the images match those of the background. And, of course, adjust the size of the image, graphic or clip art to the slide.
Remember that “less is more”; however, if you are going to use animation to highlight text, don’t abuse it. Your audience may get caught up in a fast moving text transitions and miss the entire point of your message. Choose a transition speed that is easy to follow.
Movies and Sound
Movies and sound to demonstrate or support your information should always be chosen with care. To avoid any risks that an external link to a video or music website might not work on the day you are giving your presentation, it is a good idea to download both movie/video bits as well as sound clips directly to your computer. This way you can easily insert them into your presentation. It is also possible to synchronize sound clip and slide.
As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect” and presenting a presentation is no exception. A common mistake is thinking that quickly clicking through your slides at home the day before your presentation is sufficient preparation. It is necessary to time your presentation and make sure that each technical feature works according to plan. Talk through each slide as if you were giving the presentation. And by all means, make sure that the projector and cables in the room work correctly beforehand!
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