Computer-based presentations are created on readily available office software packages. These include Microsoft Office, with its PowerPoint software, Corel Office with its Presentation software and the free Open Office with its Impress! software (see resource list below). Each package includes 'themes' or 'styles' which are professionally selected color schemes and backgrounds. Operating such software is intentionally similar to the actions needed for word processing. Nonetheless creating computer- based presentations has some particular tricks. Several authors offer rules or tips for the optimal use of presentation software. These tips will be especially valuable to newcomers to presentation software. More experienced users, with the benefit of feedback from particular audiences, should feel free to experiment.
Creating and Formatting Presentations
There are many guidelines for computer-based presentations (Applied Presentations Technologies, 2000). When creating a presentation, it is crucial to bear in mind that content is key. A slick slide show with no new content will be always disappointing. But given strong content several guidelines are useful as starting points:
- Be clear about the points you wish to make.
- Consider your audience. Some audiences will respond well to clipart and animations, others will not. Some audiences will find detailed outlines useful, others will not. Content and style are to be joined for the benefit of the learner.
presentation should have the title slide which refers specifically to
- Use a single color scheme and keep it consistent from slide to slide.
- Make sure the text is easily visible and clear. This usually means creating a high contrast between background and text. For example yellow text on a white background may not be easily visible when projected; yellow text on dark blue is.
- Text sizes of 28 points or a larger are most visible; headings 36 to 44 points.
Formatting Text on Slides
- Keep the slides simple. One common rule of thumb is to use no more than 24 words per slide. (But break this rule if it fits your audience and content.)
- Another rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 fonts per slide.
- Limit the use of boldface, italics and underling.
- Use between two and five bullets per slide. Do not use more than two levels of bullets per slide.
- Keep graphs and charts simple. Pie charts with three or four 'slices' or bar charts with three or four columns are most effective.
- Clearly label all graphs and charts: An audience struggling to understand an unlabeled chart is lost to the presenter. Alternatively, the presenter should explain how to read graphs and charts within the first 10 seconds of their presentation.
- Use no more than five colors on a graph or chart.
- Be sure that graphics, animations and transitions between slides support the presentation rather than distract from it. An animated shooting star on each new slide will grab the audience's attention. This means they will attend to the animation and to the presenter or to the content. Further the animation may become stale and annoying over the course of the presentation.
- The closing slide or slides should offer succinct recommendations or a clear summary.
- In academics, every presentation must include references so that the audience can follow up on the content. (It is astonishing how often academics who should know better fail to do this.)
- Make sure your name, contact information and institution are also included to allow follow up contact.
- Handouts or outlines may help the audience follow the presentation. You may wish to distribute them before the presentation when the content is dense and mainly text.
- However, distributing handouts before the presentation may mean the audience reads the handouts and ignores the presentation.
- Consider your teaching philosophy and act accordingly! (I usually give handouts after the presentation ends -- assuming the audience will actively engage and learn by taking their own notes without the handout. The handout is reinforcement, clarification and follow-up. But I always hand out narratives or case summaries in print during the handout.)
Hopefully this brief bulleted outline has provided the key information necessary to plan a slide show format. Note that the bulleted presentation style is telegraphed: Ideas are stated but not elaborated. This can create ambiguity. It is important for the instructor to provide a complementary oral presentation, to expand with examples, to offer perspective and cautions, and to identify vital content. It is also important to remember that while content is critical, the affective connection between presenter and audience is not generated by the presentation software. Instead it is generated by the way the instructor engages the learners and uses the material to help inform the audience.
The oral presentation/narration accompanying presentation software 'shows' should not simply repeat the text found on the slides. The presenter should word the oral narrative differently to keep the audience's attention. As much as possible, avoid reading slides or a paper to a live audience. The presentation software format is very compatible with an open question format in which the learners ask questions on a slide by slide basis. This method, varying oral delivery from the outline text while inviting clarification and challenge maximizes audience involvement. It is also an important vehicle for building rapport and engaging the audience.
Computer Hardware and its Connection to Successful Presentations
presentation is created and saved to disk, the technical challenge of
presentation hardware arises. Generally, there are few hardware
difficulties in familiar locations where communication between the
presenter and technical support staff precedes the formal presentation.
Hardware challenges are much more likely in new and unfamiliar settings.
The key cause for concern is incompatibility between the 'native'
resolution of the computer with the native resolution of the attached
computer projector. While computer monitors may be adjusted to several
different visual resolutions, computers connected to projectors are less
flexible. That is, a laptop computer may have a single, inflexible
projection output resolution when connected to a computer projector.
The native resolution of many projectors is still VGA or SVGA quality; meaning
the image is comprised of 680 by 460 pixels (dots of color across the
screen) or 800 x 600 pixels. However, recent laptop computers may have
native resolutions at XGA (1024 x 760) or higher. Unfortunately, an
SVGA laptop plugged into a VGA projector may project only two-thirds of
the complete image. Note, too that projectors may not project the
entire image visible on a widescreen laptop. Most projectors deliver a
4:3 format image rather than a 16:9 widescreen format image. The
widescreen format is common on most recent laptops. This does
not cause problems presenting but the image on the computer will likely
be re-formatted with black bars on each side.
Don't assume you will have internet access in hotels or unfamiliar locations. If you must have it, be sure to check with the on-site tech support. Talk with the tech support person directly; not with intermediaries.
In order for the presenter to use the content from each slide as a 'prompt' for the oral presentation and to change slides as needed, the presenter must be able to see the slide constantly. At the same time, the presenter must make and maintain eye contact with the audience of learners. To do both smoothly it is advantageous for the presenter's computer to be located in front of the audience but facing the presenter. The projection screen used by the audience should be behind into one side of the presenter. Thus, the presenter sees the slide contents while facing the audience. Still the presenter should occasionally look to insure that the full-size projected content is clear and the high-quality. One challenge: the cable connecting the computer to the projector often proves too short to fit in the available space and furniture. An extension for the video cable and a 'one to three' expansion plug to allow you to plug in more electrical devices are both often very helpful.
A handheld, cordless mouse is another useful tool to consider. The cordless mouse allows a presenter to move about relative to the audience and computer while advancing slides as needed. When spreadsheets or complex images are the focus of the presentation, a handheld laser pointer (often part of cordless mouse for presentation). Such pointers allow the presenter to highlight a specific feature in a slide from distance. The Logitech Presenter 2.4G is great but costs about $75.00. The Presenter allows slide forward and back movements, a black screen feature, volume adjustments and has a timer for breaks.
Impress! is part of OpenOffice a free to use open source office program available for download at http://www.openoffice.org/
text copyright by J. Drisko 2000; updated 4/6/10; 9/28/12