Advice on Power Point presentations

How to prepare your slides:

         First slide: The first slide should have the title of the presentation, your name and university, and a short outline.

         Last slide: The last slide should have conclusions, preferable in bullet form (like this page).

         Number of slides: A good rule of thumb (heuristic) is 1 slide per minute.Having too many slides will either cause you to rush or to run over your allotted time -- both undesirable.Of course, the actual time can vary widely, so you need to practice and time yourself.

         Font:Use large font, particularly on figures and tables.Remember, one should be able to read the slides from the back of the room.Probably font 18 and above.Bold font may also be helpful. Use a font type that is easier for the audience to read, e.g. Arial and Verdana rather than Times New Roman.

         Amount on slide:Do not put too much on each slide; avoid lengthy text and many small figures.Remember that itís difficult for people to listen to you if theyíre reading your text.Brief bullets are best, mostly to help you remember the main points without requiring notes.

         Equations:In general, avoid complex equations.If you have an equation, define all the terms and list any assumptions or conditions for its applicability.

         Tables of data:If possible, plot the data instead.

         Plots:The Excel defaults are poor choices for easy-to-read graphs.Make the lines thicker and the points & font larger.Adjust the scales for the axes to avoid empty space in the graph, i.e. donít automatically accept Excelís default of starting both axes at 0.Itís usually best to delete the horizontal lines inserted by Excel.Do not draw lines through or connecting data points, unless you are plotting many overlapping things on the same plot and you canít distinguish them otherwise.For plots of equations, show only the line and not the points used to generate it.

         Artistic:Donít get too fancy.You donít want flashy graphics, for example, to distract the viewer from the message.On the other hand, a video clip may be the message and therefore very useful.Donít use animation unless it helps to tell the story.

         Color scheme:Be careful with the color scheme.What may be readable on your computer screen may not be when projected.A white background with black font is always safe.Donít use background and font that are both dark or nearly the same color, e.g. dark red type on a dark purple background.In a room that is not completely dark, black font on a yellow background is easiest to read.If this is not colorful enough for you, try white type on a dark blue background, or any light colored type on a black background.

         References:Give the source (reference) for each figure and table, preferably on the slide where it appears.If thereís not sufficient space, cite by number a reference on a list given at the end.

         Spelling:Check your spelling.There's no excuse for misspelled words with the spell-checkers built into modern software, although these will not catch misuse errors such as "it's" rather than "its," or "data is" rather than "data are."("Data is the plural of the Latin "datum.""It's" is short for "it is" and is not possessive.)

How to copy material onto a slide from another source:

         From a pdf file:Find the Snapshot Tool, hold down the left button of your mouse while you outline what you want.When you release the button, it will be placed on the clipboard.

         The current window:Press Alt & Print Screen simultaneously to place it on the clipboard.

         Everything showing on your screen:Press Print Screen to place it on the clipboard.

         Pasting from the clipboard:Use Edit, Paste Special, and select a format (probably Bitmap or Picture Windows Metafile).Use your mouse to move this snapshot and drag the boundaries to change its dimensions, particularly to make certain the font is large enough to be read.

         Insert a graphics file: Insert/Picture or Clip Art.

How to make your presentation:

         Speech:Speak loudly enough that you can easily be heard in the back.Practice with a friend in the meeting room to make certain you are doing this.Vary your volume and intonation to maintain interest.Speak clearly at a reasonable pace, neither too fast nor too slow.Donít use slang that may not be understood by everyone, unless you take time to explain it.Avoid ďUmĒ and ďUhĒ -- too many of these is very annoying.Thereís nothing wrong with silence while youíre searching for a word.

         Terminology:Define all technical terminology that may be unfamiliar with anyone in the audience.

         Figures and tables:Explain whatís in each figure and table while pointing to specific parts, preferably with a laser pointer.This is particularly important if youíve copied a figure and are unable to enlarge it sufficiently for the audience to read any text.

         Eye contact:Looking at people in the audience helps maintain interest.This is difficult to do if you are reading notes or your slides.Practice until you donít need notes.

         Hands:Use of your hands also helps maintain interest.This is difficult to do with your hands in your pockets or holding onto the lectern or notes.

         Donít hide:It will be more natural to use your hands and have eye contact if you are not behind a lectern or computer.If possible, obtain a combined laser pointer and slide switcher so you donít have to even touch the computer once youíre set up.

        Practice, practice, practice

Last modified January 24, 2010.Please contact Professor Wilcox to suggest additions, changes and improvements.