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28 April 2017
Engaging Your Audience: Presenting Your Research Evidence Print
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 16:31

Powerpoint presentations seem to be the ideal way of disseminating research findings and optimizing Research Uptake. At  workshops, conferences and teaching events you have a captive audience, what could go wrong? Most of us has discovered either as a presenter or a listener that there is far too much that can go wrong. You often have limited time to present the result of years of work, there can be technical difficulties, power failures when you have prepared a visual presentation, or you may just not be very comfortable with public speaking. Our in-house tech guru, Caite McCann has produced a technical guide to setting up a good power-point presentation.

Often, if people are not very experienced in public speaking they rely heavily on their trusted tool – the PowerPoint presentation. We all know though, from our own experiences that PowerPoint can sometimes be more than a hindrance than a help. This technical guide to setting up a good power-point presentation aims to help you make the best of PowerPoint and comes in two parts:

  • Preparing your Presentation
  • Sharing and Platforms and formats for sharing and distributing online.        

To start with, have a look at this article on Avoiding Death by PowerPoint for Academics

 

"Remember that if you insert any images that are light on a dark background, add a border to the image in a slightly lighter shade than the background, and do the reverse for dark pictures on a light foreground"

 

Setting up a template

Since this is a technical guide the obvious place to start is with a template. There are some very nice templates in PowerPoint and lots more on the web you can download. And very often Universities have a standard template that provides the university logo and a standard background. The main thing to remember when choosing or working in a template is how it will look projected on a big screen: will it be easy to read?

For example, for background images; since a projector uses light, bright colors are going to be really bright. If you are not going for a standard light colour background, then go with a dark background with light text.  In a dark room this can be easier to read. Remember that if you insert any images that are light on a dark background, add a border to the image in a slightly lighter shade than the background, and do the reverse for dark pictures on a light foreground.

Then set up your background image, font and any images or copyright you would like to be displayed. To do this for every sheet you need to alter your Slide Master.

 

Master Slides

A “Master” is a sheet that will affect every page in your document. It is a good idea to spend some time playing with it. If you are using a template this is where you can personalize it. If you change the theme or font for your Master slide it will automatically change the theme and font for your entire presentation. (A word of warning, always do this at the beginning, you can have some really strange changes if you change the Master on the final presentation)

Also important is getting everything lined up. To do this you need to set up some guides. It can be irritating when each of the text blocks are in a slightly different place, so open your template and go to the View menu. Click on Ruler and then go to the Guides menu below it and tick everything. This will help you square everything off correctly.

A note about copyright;  its worth inserting your author details and copyright requirements in your Master Slide.

 

Saving as you go

Something to bear in mind is that you should always save your changed template separately into your personal template folder, that way you have a fresh starting point for your next presentation. It’s also good to keep in mind that once you have everything placed in your document and are ready to begin editing you should save a new copy of the document using the “Save as” Function. The same pertains if you send it to someone to review for you. Save a copy for them, never overwrite your copy. The way to do this correctly is simple.  Add a version number to the end of the file name “- V1”, if someone else works on it they get their own version with their name after. “- V3 - Caite”. When you are happy with your PowerPoint and ready to present add final to the Version number ”-V5 - Final”. Once you are happy then you can delete the previous versions.

 

"Start with a content plan as a simple multilevel list. Then go through it and look at it from the viewpoint of your audience. What are they there to hear about? What have they heard before? What will interest them most?"

 

Planning your content layout, setting up your slides and writing your speech

Presentations are stressful for most people; so one thing that will help you hugely is using a layout plan. This can differ depending on what you are presenting but can help you with selecting your content. (More on this in the suggested blog “How to Give a Fabulous Academic Presentation: Five Tips to Follow”)

Start with a content plan as a simple multilevel list. Then go through it and look at it from the viewpoint of your audience. What are they there to hear about? What have they heard before? What will interest them most? You should give the most slide space to new ideas. Don’t  tell the audience too many things that they already know.

 

So you think you’re ready to start creating your slides?  Not yet!

So here is something very few people use but can make the difference between an okay presentation and a great presentation…. Notes, as in: ”Click to add notes”. What you are writing here is in fact your speech, a script that will allow you to speak more clearly and easily on your topic. PowerPoint slides are simple visual descriptions but don’t contain much context so this is where you will write the actual “speech” or examples which you want to give to explain the bullet points or images you use in you presentation.

Before you add anything to your slides, take your content plan, divide it into individual slides and drop it into the notes for each slide. Then write out your speech. Here in the notes, you can be as wordy as you want; think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Once you have done your content plan you can start to look at how you want to present that information visually. This will help you to keep your slides clean and concise; the audience is there to hear you speak, not to read a presentation.

 

"Reading a bullet point list out is a surefire way to lose peoples’ attention. If you must read directly from a bullet point then the last thing you want is to put the whole list up. This is a good opportunity to use animation in PowerPoint, and animation means that you can have each item in the list appear one by one as you are ready to talk about them."

 

NOW you can begin your slide content layout

Bullet Points: Using bullet points to summarize for the audience is good, reading bullet points out to the audience is not so good.

It’s a simple fact that most people can read faster than you should speak. Reading a bullet point list out is a surefire way to lose peoples’ attention. If you must read directly from a bullet point then the last thing you want is to put the whole list up. This is a good opportunity to use animation in PowerPoint, and animation means that you can have each item in the list appear one by one as you are ready to talk about them. Something to bear in mind is that bullet points are meant to sum things up. Keep them as short as possible - you should always add more information verbally. This also helps to keep the audience’s attention.

If you would like to know more about using special features in PowerPoint Microsoft has really good tutorials you can watch and download. (If you have a earlier version of Microsoft office then simple go to the bottom of the page and select your version of Microsoft office PowerPoint. You can then navigate to what interests you or search for it in the site.)

Images. When it comes to content that strengthens your spoken presentation, diagrams and images are vital. Images have to be contextualized with a verbal description. If your presentation is a bit dry, try converting one of your bullet lists into a diagram. A cycle or a process tree can help catch the audience’s attention. You can design this straight into a slide, or if you have stats in Excel or a diagram in Word, you can simple select it and copy, then paste into PowerPoint.

 

Editing and reviewing your presentation

Now you have your slides and your script. Time to review. Here’s where the benefit of a script starts to really kick in. Print out your presentation, with the notes. Set up the PowerPoint to run and read the script out loud. Check that the script and slides coincide and that they get your point across clearly.

Look at the script and add Speaking Notes. If you are not sure how to do this here is a quick guide 

The key to a good presentation is practice, and by that I mean, practice aloud. Practicing aloud helps you to find where you are going to have trouble and where you might need more supporting visuals to help you through a hard section.

Finally, print out your Speaking Notes and save your presentation onto a USB. The computers used to load presentations are often old and have old software, so save it in at least two formats: ”.pptx” and “.ppt” are good. 


Caite McCann is the Information Systems Manager for OSD and the Drussa Programme

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Comments


Joshua Mwankon said on 2016-04-09 09:22:16:
thank you very much Caite for the tips, i just learnt that reading bullet points could bore my audience. i will avoid that in my future presentations.