A. General presentation tips
Make sure your title is reflective of the majority of your talk. Include a brief overview of the major sections of your talk. Avoid spending an excess of time on the introduction.
Enlarge overheads! Visual aids do not add to a presentation if they cannot be seen by an audience.
Overheads should remain up for at least 45 seconds. Do not leave overheads up for an extended period of time as they are likely to distract the audience.
Consider use of blank slides when appropriate. If using an overhead projector, turn it off when not needed.
Show actual study data whenever possible.
Use a pointer rather than a finger or pen when referring to material on slides or overheads.
When using a pointer and referring to the screen, do not talk into the screen; rather, stand at the side of the screen and speak to the audience.
Minimize use of non words such as “um”, “ah”.
Avoid swinging or playing with the pointer.
Make strong concluding remarks.
B. Preparing overhead transparencies
Use 1 idea per overhead, 6 words per line, 6 lines per overhead, 4 overheads per 10 minutes.
Use consistent layout, colours, and lettering style.
Use appropriate letter size (visibility).
Use colour to emphasize, not decorate. Use colour to highlight key features.
Use only 2 or 3 vivid colours on any one overhead.
The material should be centered.
Leave about as much unused space as is used.
If your transparencies are busy, use the overlay technique to present the information piece by piece.
If desired, use frames for your overheads (ease of handling/storage, can be numbered, can write cue notes on frames).
Keep your overheads in a binder for storage. During a presentation, you can retrieve your overheads directly from the binder. You may wish to keep your originals in a binder as well.
C. Tips on preparing slides
Most visuals prepared for showing at meetings and conventions take the format of 2″ x 2″ slides. Their effectiveness depends upon clarity and readability.
Limit each slide to one unified idea.
Plan slides so that their longest dimension will be horizontal. It is difficult to view vertically oriented materials in rooms with low ceilings.
Any copy of more than five or six words is more readable if both capital and lower case letters are used rather than capitals only.
Select a good, readable alphabet style, such as IBM’s Times New Roman, in which all letters are easily recognizable.
Use a plain vertical letter style without embellishment, except where emphasis or emotional impact is desired, and then exaggerate only. Avoid script letter style. Use italics sparingly if at all.
Assuming an approximate format of 8 x 11″ in size, limit your smaller lettering to a minimum of ” in height, 1/32″ in thickness of line, and at least 3/8″ in the space between lines. Often visuals have to be presented under less than ideal conditions; consequently, the suggested minimums are conservatively high. No more than 7 lines in height, 5 words in a title, and no more than 7 words in width.
Letters should be about as wide as they are high, of approximately the same uniform thickness throughout. If you can read a 2×2″ slide without a magnifier, people in their seats can probably read them on the screen.
Space lettering so that the areas between letters are adequate for greatest legibility and appear equal for uniformity.
Allow a 1.5-letter width for the space between words and three widths between sentences. Too much or too little space makes difficult reading.
Use maximum light-dark contrast for all lettering, black or very dark letters on a very light
An adequate margin (at least “) is necessary between lettering and outer edge of area to be photographed.
Picture symbols or illustrations must be large enough and obvious enough to be easily recognized.
Assuming the same 8.5 x 11″ format mentioned previously, picture symbols should be at least one fourth the size of this overall area unless they are extremely simple.
Drawings, graphs, charts and figures should be bold, simple, and contain only essential details.
Picture symbols should be outlined with a heavy line at least 1/16″ thick. Necessary details can be added
in thinner lines, since they should appear less important. Many thin lines, particularly if they are not
essential, may actually cause confusion.
Generally speaking, maximum light-dark contrast is advisable for all lines; black or near black on a light background.
Colour is an important adjunct to most visuals, but should be applied in flat areas rather than in graduated tones or elaborate shading.
Colour combinations which clash tend to create annoyance to the viewer and consequently interfere with a clear perception of the message.
Project your completed slides under conditions similar to those likely to be encountered in the meeting room. Examine each one critically and impartially.
Note: If a considerable amount of tabular data and reading material must be presented, it is better to reproduce the material in printed handout form. However, keep in mind that viewers are likely to be overwhelmed or even repulsed, rather than impressed by large amounts of data. Summarize the information whenever possible.
D. Arranging the environment
Position the screen in the corner to ensure that viewers can see both you and the screen.
Rule of 2 and 6: no viewer should be closer than 2x the height of the screen nor farther away than 6x the height of the screen.
Be mindful of the “keystone” effect; tilt the screen slightly forward to eliminate.
Ahead of time: is the projector plugged in, positioned properly? Is the bulb working, is there a spare bulb, is the stage clean? Will you need to dim the lights, is the projector focused?
- always face the group
- maintain eye contact with participants
- do not walk between the projector and the screen
- introduce your slides/overheads
- do not speak until you have eye contact with the group; while writing on overheads, stop speaking.
- speak in a strong, clear voice; if the projector is noisy or located close to some participants, you may have to project even more forcefully
- use the on/off switch to direct participant attention to you or the overheads
- Avoid rapid movements when pointing.
F. Pet peeves about speakers’ use of visual aids
Speakers give too much detail in the visual so that the audience cannot follow or appreciate them.
Visuals are kept in view too long.
The speaker reads directly from the visual.
Speakers do not rehearse with their visuals.
Speakers do not use enough colour.
Speakers do not choose the right mechanical aid; for example, using cardboard charts instead of slides
and vice versa.
Speakers play with the visual if they can reach it. If they cannot, they play with the pointer.
Speakers’ visuals are not positioned properly in their presentations.
Lack of variety of visuals.
Lack of originality.
G. Common errors in developing handouts
Handouts should not be in complete sentence form.
Handouts should have an organizational outline to it.
Make sure references are in the format cited in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to
Biomedical Journals (i.e., the “Vancouver methods”).
Do not over-reduce charts and figures.
Reference charts and graphs within the handout.
Include your name and date prepared on the handout.
Adapted from: “Guidelines for joint teaching seminar presentations”, A. Alleyne, C. Jackevicius, Toronto, May