On Presentations

As a presenter, you have been allocated a set number of minutes. Stay within the time; the overall schedule will be disrupted if everyone is slightly overtime. This also means that your equipment should be ready to use. Each presenter has the right to his or her full time. Planning for the number of presentations in a set period is based on the assumption that YOU will be responsible in keeping time!

Guidelines for Presentations

  • For a 10-minute talk: Five (5) double-spaced pages of text is the maximum that you should plan.
  • For a 20-minute talk: Ten (10) double-spaced pages of text is the maximum that you should plan

Basically, each page of text (250 words) is between 2- and 2.5-minutes of speech, assuming that you are reading. Generally, you will sound better if you do NOT read but speak just from your notes. The potential problem with speaking from notes alone is going overtime.

  • When you get that 1-minute warning, do NOT speed up: CONCLUDE your presentation!
  • You cannot present as many ideas as you would in a paper. Better to cover three points thoroughly and conclude instead of losing your audience and going overtime. Structure your talk so that these points are at the beginning. If you get that 1-minute warning, then you can proceed to your conclusion without eliminating the essence of your argument.
  • Plan ahead and practice before your presentation to check for time and flow of the talk. Make sure you know how to use your equipment.
  • Speak to your audience, NOT to the screen or blackboard!
  • Make eye contact with your audience when speaking. Do not mumble or stand hunched over your notes.
  • After making your presentation, there is usually an opportunity for the audience to ask questions. If silence follows, be prepared to pose a question to generate discussion.

Tips when Using Images

These days most people use PowerPoint, rather than slides or transparencies to illustrate their presentations. The latter may not be as flashy as a PowerPoint but “old” technology generally has fewer problems in its use.  These tips apply to all media formats. Use a laser pointer to direct your audience’s attention.

  • As always, reference where appropriate using an accepted citation format, e.g., Chicago Manual of Style (Author-Date).
  • Images used are NOT for decorative purposes; they should add information.
  • Images used should match and complement your text; otherwise, your audience may become confused.
  • When presenting data in tabular or graphic form, make sure your audience can read it; otherwise, it is worthless. This is where previewing is important.
  • Limit the information conveyed to a single point or idea. Basically, you need to simplify graphics to the key points.
  • When using text in an image, follow the 7/7 rule: No more than seven (7) lines with seven (7) words per line.
  • Use a clear text font (e.g., Arial, Century Gothic, Verdana) rather than something like Chiller or Freestyle Script. Ease of reading is important.
  • With graphics and text, use contrasting colours; some colours work better than others–again, preview. With PowerPoint, there is a tendency to use multiple colour combinations; be consistent in using an overall colour scheme.

For Slides:

  • For a lecture of 20-minutes, do not use more than 40 slides. This is dependent, of course, on the amount of accompanying commentary per slide.
  • Avoid backing up slides; make sufficient copies to use throughout your presentation.
  • Use a black slide or some other marker to indicate that you have reached the end so that your audience is not blinded with white light.
  • Check that you have placed your slides in proper order and facing the right direction (shiny side towards you, upside down).

For Transparencies:

  • Make sure you place the transparencies on the projector correctly (facing upwards towards you, i.e., you should be able to read it). Constant turning them upside down and backwards can be annoying.
  • The same comments apply to text font, but size is also important. Use at least 20-pt font size.
  • If you borrow images and photocopy, try to have as clean an image as possible. It will make your presentation more professional looking

For PowerPoint:

  • Limit the number of “bells and whistles” used in your presentation.  Having bullets and letters constantly zinging across the screen becomes annoying and says more about your ability to use the programme rather than the substance of your talk.
  • When borrowing images, make sure that it projects clearly. A fuzzy image does not help your cause.
  • Text should complement or emphasize a particular point; do NOT use it as your lecture notes.

Acknowlegement: A handout for an ARARA conference provided the inspiration. Additional modifications and comments for this webpage are based on the many presentations graded over the years, as well as the helpful suggestions of Vancouver Island University (formerly, Malaspina University-College) students and colleagues.

Last updated 2017-12-28