Delivering a Slideshow Presentation

Recommendations and Pitfalls for the Traditional Slideshow

Why Presentations Get a Bad Rap

When I was in the army, we joked about "death by PowerPoint." And it was a real problem. When planning operations or giving status updates, many of the officers were required to put together very detailed slideshows — and when presenting information to military personnel who are far from home and running short on sleep, putting an audience to sleep is easy. And if you pack your slides with detailed contour maps and paragraphs of notes, you will literally knock them cold.

In the classroom, we face a similar problem — students are often tired, overworked, and distracted. So whether you're a teacher presenting to your or you're a student presenting to your classmates or a teacher highlighting important course content, it's hard holding the attention of a classroom.

Part 1: Planning a Presentation

One of the hardest parts of presentations is that we typically assign them as group activities. This requires a level of planning and coordination that's often very difficult, especially when you want everything to hold together a single, coherent message. In "How to Give a Great Group Presentation," ThoughtCo gives a direct overview on planning, rehearsing, and delivering an effective presentation. In their "Guide for Giving a Group Presentation," VirtualSpeech provides a more comprehensive discussion that also considers your sense of "presence" in the room.

Key Takeaways for Planning:

  • Narrative: Figure Out the Story. To engage your audience, find a story that's interesting, something that illustrates the importance of your topic. Stories hold our attention better that simple facts.
  • Pre-Planning: Distribute the Work and Plan Rehearsals. It helps to give each group member a specific area to focus on, and then hold each person to a set amount of time. If you can't all rehearse together, at least know how the slots will fit together for when you rehearse individually.
  • Contingency Planning: Be Prepared for Things to Break. Technology might malfunction, someone may fall ill, and you should never rely on the printer for handouts in the last five minutes before you present.
  • Adapt and Overcome: The Show Must Go On. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Whatever happens, deliver the best information you can given the resources you have in the moment. As long as you keep the presentation going, your audience won't know what you added or cut in the moment.

Part 2: Designing Your Presentation

The two sources listed here, "Top Ten Slide Tips" and "The 7 Deadly Sins of PowerPoint Presentations," offer important advice for producing informative and engaging presentations for a variety of audiences.

Key Tips from the Five Professional Modes:

  • Linguistic: The Words Are the Information. Yes, a picture might be worth a thousand words, but how you introduce that picture will dramatically impact how your audience "reads" that image.
  • Gestural: Face Your Audience. You want to make eye contact, and you need your voice to project toward the room rather than toward your slides.
  • Visual: Go Big or Go Home. Use Large Images and HUGE font sizes to ensure everyone in the room can see your work. Also, limit the number of words on your slides — give the header or highlight, then fill in the rest with your spoken explanations.
  • Aural: Set the Right Volume. If you're soft spoken like me, you may find it's better to stand closer to your audience. If you have a video or recording, make sure you don't blow out the wall speakers.
  • Spatial: Organize the Slides to Match Your Words. You want everything to be organized in a clear, coherent manner — and the visuals should augment your words rather than replace them. The slides help focus your audience's attention on your message.