Designing an Effective Presentation

Your Guide to Designing a Great Presentation

Attendees tell us their most memorable session experiences weave together a clear narrative with discussion, interaction, and thought-provoking commentary around a story, project, or theme. The following pointers will help you design a compelling presentation.

  • Sync presentation design with delivery. Review your abstract to ensure your presentation will provide what you've promised -- whether face-to-face, online, or poster. Edit your abstract or adjust your design in whatever ways necessary to meet expectations.
  • You only have 10 minutes before your audience starts to lose attention. Chunk your presentation into 10 minute segments, with breaks for questions and interactivity. Plan to connect with your audience through strategies like quick polls, think-pair-share, or other tactics to gather new ideas and engage participants.
  • Avoid PowerPointless. Create slides that are complementary to your remarks, not identical. Use slides as a canvas for visual representations, graphics and photos. Always avoid reading or echoing slide content in your talk.
  • Keep it simple. Visual content should contain minimal information; focus on one idea per slide. Remember, the number of information chunks we can recall at a time is "Seven, Plus or Minus Two." Assemble your presentation slides in seven chunks, plus or minus two! (See also poster design tips below.)

Especially for Online Presentations

Online presentations require additional consideration and preparation to engage the audience. If you will be using our Adobe Connect interface, be sure to avail yourself of the presenter coaching resources developed with you in mind!

1. Leverage your voice. Online, your voice and delivery must convey the movement, hand gestures, and facial expressions of in-person presentations. Avoid long pauses and speak with energy, confidence, and a smile.

2. Build a virtual connection. Remove the temptation to multitask by fostering a virtual connection. Keep a conversational tone. Share your picture or use a webcam. Provide your biographical information and ask participants about theirs.

3. Take the group's temperature at intervals throughout. Use different tools to get a sense of participant presence. Include polls and comment on the results. Encourage chat and acknowledge comments by name.


Especially for Poster Presentations

Poster sessions are informal, allowing you to share your work on a one-to-one basis. They are an excellent opportunity to discuss innovations and work in progress. A good poster centers on a main theme, presents useful information, and stimulates discussion. Don't forget to upload a digital copy of your poster to the digital poster gallery for this event. Your poster and good work will be on display long after the event concludes.

1. Keep it simple. Keep your poster simple and uncluttered. Limit to one or two fonts. Avoid using all capitals, which are more difficult to read. Use complementary colors with high contrast to alleviate eye strain.

2. Make it visually interesting. Use graphics, photos, and diagrams with a high degree of relevancy to add depth, meaning and visual interest for your topic.

3. Make it readable. Make text readable from 5 feet or more away. Use bullets for main points. Details can be included in your conversation, on a handout, or on a Web site on display during the session. Provide the URL in any other resource materials.

4. Create a compelling title. Include a title, institution/organization name, and brief summary so participants will know if your topic is of interest to them. Often title/summary will be upper left and institution lower right.

5. Use technology. If you plan to use a laptop for demonstration purposes, ensure participants will be able to read the screen.