Instructional Media: PowerPoint presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most widely used software for electronic presentations. The software allows you to incorporate pictures, sound, videos or animation easily into your presentations and you may print the presentation, display it on a computer/laptop or project it using a video projector for large groups. The following are some guidelines when preparing your presentation using PowerPoint:

  • Plan your content
    Keep in mind your topic, goals, teaching objectives, flow of material and your audience when preparing your PowerPoint presentation. Decide on the structure and content first before adding colour, text, sound, video or other visual aids. PowerPoint can provide a structured framework for your lesson. Use the outline view in PowerPoint to organise your key points quickly and build up the presentation from there. Remember to end your presentation with a summary slide.

  • Using templates in PowerPoint
    Though the templates in PowerPoint provide a good way to start preparing for your presentations, they should be customised (e.g. change the fonts or colours) to match the tone of your presentation.

  • Use readable and consistent typefaces
    Fonts generally come in families. Choose two font families and standardise the font sizes for titles, subtitles and text. For example, you can use serif fonts (e.g. Times New Roman, Courier) for the titles and sans serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica) for the text on your slides. Avoid using delicate typefaces, underline text or italics as these can be difficult to read on the screen from a distance. Also, words written with the capital script are more difficult to read than those with lower case (e.g. STAFF CLUB vs. Staff Club); a combination of both is best. Limit the text to a few phrases and not sentences.

    A good rule of thumb is to limit the text on a slide to six lines down and six words across. You may have a few slides that exceed the recommended size, but avoid over-crowding your slides with too much text. The slides are meant to be cues for your lessons and you should be careful not to load your entire lesson onto the slides. Reading off entire blocks of text on the slides will not make an effective presenter.

  • Put one heading on each screen
    Placing the main idea on a particular slide ensures that it is clear and easy to remember. If you have any company or department logos, place them on the left or at the bottom of your slide so that they do not distract your audience.

  • Check for consistency
    Watch out for consistency in the use of fonts, type sizes and formatting. These will improve the flow of your presentation, making it smoother for you to move from one point to another.

  • Animation and transitions
    Adopting a standard transition (e.g. having text drop down from above or coming in from the left) between slides will make it easier for the audience to follow your presentation. Excessive use of special effects (e.g. sound, animation) can slow down the pace of the presentation.

  • Use colours with care
    Colours can make your presentations come alive. You may use different colours to draw attention to charts, diagrams, hyperlinks and so on but make sure the colours you have chosen blend well together. Strong contrast in presentation materials helps legibility. Pair light-coloured text with a dark background or dark-coloured text with a light background. When working with text, limit your colour scheme to two or three colours.

  • Use visuals appropriately
    Keep your background simple to highlight the text clearly. This is especially important when presenting charts and numbers as these may not show up clearly on photo-type backgrounds.

    Do not say in words what you can show and tell in images. Substituting text with appropriate images (e.g. photographs, diagrams, charts drawings) convey your message more effectively to your audience.

  • Proofread your presentation
    Check your spelling and punctuation. Verify the accuracy of data and the names of people and organisations. Typos, misspellings and factual errors can destroy your credibility as an expert in the field.

  • Practise, practise, practise
    The more you practise, the better you will feel about what you are saying and how you are saying it.

  • Prepare for the unexpected
    Go to the room/lecture theatre early to get everything set up and tested. You can choose to print your presentation as handouts or transparencies, or upload it onto the IVLE in case of equipment failures, electrical outages and to pre-empt Murphy’s Law.