2. Design your template.
When you are ready to build your slide set, first prepare a slide template. This step will save you time formatting each slide and create consistency. Although PowerPoint provides many predesigned themes, avoid them. Creating your own template will give you more control and help you avoid some of the poor design choices represented in many of the preset templates. Using the “Master Slide” feature is a good way to design once and apply your choices throughout your presentation.
When designing a slide template for the body slides of your presentation, keep in mind these suggestions:
- Opt for a white (or very light) background.
Although, many presentation slide sets use a dark background with light text, a more audience friendly choice is a light background and dark text. This combination is universally easier to read especially on a screen. Another benefit of a white background is that you can use a wider variety of image files and types without dealing with the white boxes that often appear in JPEG image files.
- Prefer a san serif font.
As is true for reading on computer screens, san serif fonts are also easier to read on the large screens of PowerPoint slides. This is not to say that all serif fonts are unacceptable but rather a good rule of thumb is to prefer a san serif font.
- Include an orienting footer.
Be sure to design a footer on your slides that includes the title (or abbreviated title) of your presentation, the date of the presentation, and particularly the slide number. This information is helpful for you in archiving the slide set or changing it for future presentations, but it is especially helpful in orienting the audience. It is much easier to ask a specific question at the end of a presentation if one can refer to specific slide number rather than trying to describe the visual after a single viewing.
- Avoid visual “noise.”
In Presentation Zen, Reynolds explains the principle of signal-to-noise ratio and the effects of cluttering a slide with too much visual information that is unrelated to a point being made. He says, “There is simply a limit to a person’s ability to process new information efficiently and effectively” (2012, p. 134). In other words, avoid unnecessary design elements and visuals on slide in a technical presentation. This means eliminating meaningless clip art, images, or even an organizational logo on every slide in order to focus the audience’s attention on the visual that supports your claim. In most cases, less is truly more on a slide.
3. Create your orienting slides.
In addition to acting a visual aid to support the claims of presentation, the purpose of a slide set is also to help the audience understand the organization and follow the speaker’s thoughts more coherently. Many slide sets miss this opportunity. First, be sure to create a title slide that introduces your presentation and you to the audience. Next, slide sets, even for short presentations, should include an outline. The audience wants to know where a talk is going and when they can anticipate its conclusion. Your point in making a technical presentation should not be a mystery; tell the audience what you are about and show them in the form of an outline slide. Revisit this slide to reorient you audience in the middle of the presentation or even before each major point in a long presentation.
Sample of an outline slide
Another orientation feature that you should consider adding is borrowed from pedagogical theory: the advance organizer. A good presentation should help audience members connect new information to previous knowledge and understand why the information is important to them. This is also the purpose of an advance organizer.
Simply put, the advance organizer in slide set is a slide (or several) dedicated to visually introducing background or introductory material so the audience is prepared to accept the claims of the presentation. An advance organizer may take many different forms depending upon the type and purpose of a presentation. One example is visual “list” of supplies needed to perform a task you are teaching. Another might be a definition of a subject or an image of a finished product that the presentation aims to demonstrate the process of creating. Accompanied by the speaker’s oral explanation or even audience interaction, these slides help orient the audience and prepare them to receive the bulk of the material more effectively.
Sample of an advance organizer slide
4. Lay out your organization.
With a template created and orienting slides in place, you can now deal with the body content of the presentation. Follow the same form you would in presenting information effectively and persuasively in any medium by including the following elements: an introduction, several points (or claims), a conclusion, and a call for questions. The audience is familiar with receiving information in this way and will become confused or fail to recall your purpose if you do not sum up your points in a conclusion, for example.