From grade school though grad school you will be doing presentations at least once a semester. Often these fall toward the end of the term and are your largest project. It is important to make them clear, concise, and memorable. So here are a wide range of tips, tricks, and guidelines to use.
To Powerpoint or not to Powerpoint. That is the question….
The answer depends on the nature of your presentation. In an undergrad Shakespeare class I had to perform a monologue with whatever props, etc. I wanted. Powerpoint might help if you were going for a modernist interpretation, but I went for overly dramatic music, [props and a costume. If, however, you are presenting the results of a research project on global warming, Powerpoint is your friend.
If you have a great artistic topic and way of presenting the information, then skip Powerpoint. It’s the path of least resistance but also the most boring and least memorable. Roll plays, teaching exercises, and other types of A/V presentations can all be impressive, but you have to have the right kind of topic to make those work. If you choose to do a non-powerpoint presentation, keep these general principles in mind:
If you choose to Powerpoint….
Sometimes you have no choice. Other times no other format will really work as well. Powerpoint and other presentation software is, frankly, massively useful for all that it can be a pain in the butt to work with. So here are some tips to making it an asset to your presentation.
Remember, you will be standing up there talking. The goal of your slides is to help people follow your talk, not to replace it.
Regardless of the type of presentation you choose to do, PRACTICE. Present it out loud, even if no one is listening. It will help you smooth out the flow and make sure you aren’t missing any steps.
Finally, make sure you are prepared equipment-wise. Don’t make any assumptions. If you need speakers for your ipod in order to include music, bring them or verify in advance that something appropriate will be there. If you need a projector for your slides, verify in advance that it will be there or print overheads just in case. There is nothing worse than showing up with your brilliant work on a flash drive and finding out that the room has no computer, or having a great presentation set up in Google Presentation and finding out there is no internet connection.
Here are a few other great resources on creating top presentations:
Powerpoint Presentation Advice – This page has lots of specific suggestions, most general although a few oriented toward either employment or graduate research presentations.
Tips for Effective Powerpoint Presentations – Some very specific but excellent advice, such as choosing sans serif fonts for easier readability at a distance.
Presentation Zen – This blog is constantly posting great new presentation tips
Garr Reynolds – the guy behind Presentation Zen also has a page of tips and samples
Rebecca is a PhD student who blogs about her academic experiences at protoscholar.com