As you prepare your talk, consider the elements of an effective presentation. Slides should be easy to read. Message should be easy to follow. And the speaker should be energetic and engaging. Recognize that what the audience sees often has a greater impact than the words they hear. They will notice your demeanor and appearance, so use these to your advantage.
- Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. If you use a dark background, text should be white or very light.
- Sans serif fonts like Arial and Calibri tend to be the easiest to read on screens. 18pt size or larger is recommended.
- Avoid the temptation to use effects (flashing text, swipes) just for the sake of the effects. They are distracting.
- Avoid clutter. Each slide should contain a title and a few bullet points or an image/graph.
- Images can add visual interest and keep the audience engaged, but should have a clear purpose so as not to become an unnecessary distraction.
- Use space and color effectively. If you fill your slides with congested text, images, and unnecessary borders, your audience will get claustrophobic. Use color to communicate information—different colors for different meanings, with bright and/or dark colors to highlight information that requires greater attention. Avoid using a combination of red and green in the same display so colorblind viewers can distinguish groups of data.
- Be efficient and parsimonious. Don’t present unnecessary information. If you have to apologize for a slide, it shouldn’t be in your talk!
- Check in with the AV tech early to learn the presentation controls and flow of your talk (microphone, remote, PowerPoint, Audience Response, videos, etc.). This way your already prepared before you even get to the podium.
- As a back up only, it's always a good idea to bring your presentation on a USB drive.
- Realize that you are the focus and not the slides, so consider your presentation manner—how you hold yourself, how you speak and move, how enthusiastic you are, etc.
- First impressions matter. Move confidently to where you will present, stand tall, and take a moment before speaking to look around the audience and smile.
- Maintain eye contact throughout your talk. If you don’t, you are sending a signal that you don’t want to be there or that you aren’t committed to your message.
- Present with energy. Underscore important points with movement or change in facial expressions. Keep a lively tone of voice, but vary pitch and pace. Always speak clearly.
- Read the audience. If you think their interest is waning, change your voice pitch or tempo or pause abruptly. If they have confused looks on their faces, ask if you can clarify something.
- Practice can help to avoid a lot of “ums” and “you knows.” Advice on whether to use a script or an outline is varied. A script is useful in practicing, and it can be a security blanket if you lose your train of thought. But reading from a script during a presentation is a surefire way to lose your audience’s interest.
Stick to time limits.