Presentation Tips

This is a presentation tips video recorded during the Fall 2022 semester.

Edited Transcript

Hello, everyone, I wanted to take a few minutes to record a short video to give you some tips and tricks of things that you can do to improve your presentations for the second round of presentations. Most of these comments are from things that Dr. DeLoach, Dr. Lang and I wrote down on the comment sheets for all of you, those should all be uploaded to Canvas. And if you don’t see that, let me know. And I can find your comment sheet and make sure it gets attached to the comments on canvas. But what I’m going to do is I’m going to go through a few slides examples and talk about a few things that we really noticed in these presentations that are things that you can work on to improve for the next time around.

First and foremost, I’ve got a pretty bland intro slide here that just gives my name and the name of my presentation. But there’s a lot of things you can do to really be eye grabbing from the very beginning of your presentation. For example, just using the PowerPoint Designer, I was able to improve this slide to look like this. It’s gotten much bigger text, it’s got a more interesting font, it’s got a little bit of graphic design to it. And it really brings your attention to the presentation. And it gets across the point very quickly.

The second thing that we noticed is a lot of presentations would begin with an outline slide. Remember that the presentation that you’re giving are only going to be about eight minutes. And so you really don’t have a whole lot of time to talk during your presentation. Especially on an outline slide like this, the text can be really small, there’s no graphics, there’s very little time to present us. And so on an eight minute presentation, I’ve already wasted about 30 seconds just talking about an outline of things that I’m going to talk about in the next eight minutes. I would argue that an outline is more important if you’re talking for an hour or an hour and a half or giving a long form training. But for a short eight minute presentation, I would just leave this slide out, you really don’t need it, dive right into your content and start telling us about your project.

Another big thing that we noticed in a lot of presentations was that they generally used very small text. This slide was made using the default PowerPoint slide layout, and you’ll notice that it only has three bullet points. But nearly three fourths of the slide is left as blank space. And it makes it really hard to read especially in the back of the classroom. But it also means that you’ve got so much screen space that you’re not taking advantage of. The other thing that we notice on this slide is the bullet points themselves are full sentences. And so when I’m reading the slide, I tend to actually read all of the text on the slide instead of trying to present it to the audience. So if you ever have a slide that looks like this, where you’ve got lots of whitespace. Again, this is a really good chance to use the slide designer in PowerPoint or use your own design skills to improve it a little bit. So I always recommend when you’re working with slides, use the available space. On this slide, I’ve moved the header up just a little bit to take advantage of that, using the slide designer, I was able to make a very quick slide that has three bullet points, it uses much more space that has much less blank space. And the bullets themselves have few words that are very eye catching. You can even expand this by centering some of the text or adding additional graphics or icons to really get your point across.

Another comment that we had very often was diagrams were very hard to read. Again, this is the default slide design for when you paste the diagram into a slide. And you’ll notice that the diagram itself only takes up maybe 20 30% of the slide and the rest of it is again left as whitespace it’s really hard to read this diagram, even just on a computer screen. And so when you’re sitting in the room, it can be very, very difficult to read this. So as you’re thinking about your second presentation, one of the things I really encourage you to do is use up the entire slide space for your diagram, we don’t really need a title, we don’t really need a header, we’re just interested in the diagram itself and you verbally can provide the information about what diagram this is and how it fits into your documents. Another thing you can think about is the most slides are going to be oriented horizontally. And so I would reformat this diagram to be wider than it is tall. So again, it takes up all of the available space on the slide.

Another thing that we saw a few times were slides that because of the background graphics or because of other things that were going on, it became very hard to read, you either had dark text on a dark background, or light text on the light background, especially in the classrooms. When you’re presenting on a projector. A lot of times you lose a lot of that contrast between lights and darks. And so it can be even harder to read some of this text when you’re presenting it in the classroom versus what it looks like on your computer screen when you’re making it. So instead, don’t be afraid to use bright colors, bright text, use catchy fonts, and really aim to have some really big contrast on your slides. The other thing you can do, of course is use a consistent color scheme. If you go back and look at the earlier slides, I had some other color highlights and these are the two colors that I used. So I’m trying to keep a very consistent color scheme across my slides even as I shift between light backgrounds and dark backgrounds. I am using a whole bunch of different fonts here just to get the point across in general, you probably want to pick a header font and a text font and stick with that.

A lot of the rest of the comments we left was all about the presentation process itself. One of the things we really noticed is there a lot of students that have felt like made the slides right before class and then would come to class and just read them aloud and winging it instead of actually practicing their presentation. One of the big crutches that you’ll have a lot of times is actually reading directly from your slides instead of thinking about what you’re going to say, and presenting that content to the audience. And because of that, you tend to get a little nervous or a little stressed out. And so the audience can seem very scary when you don’t practice. The other thing we noticed students would do is they would think about what they’re going to say only when they’re up actually presenting their presentation. And so like, they would talk about it, and then they would think about it for a little bit more and say, things that were really hard to follow. And they would always end in a question mark. And so you don’t want to do that you really want to practice your presentation, so that it flows really nicely, and you feel confident, and we understand exactly what you’re trying to say.

So to really make a confident presentation, the biggest thing you can do is practice, practice, practice, put your slides up on your monitor, stand up, walk around, just like you would do with a presentation and talk your way through it. As you talk through your presentation, your brain will start to remember the things you want to say. And it will also work on the segues. between slides. One of the best and easiest ways to tell if somebody’s practice or presentation is if they can talk as their slide changes, because they already know what’s coming next. And they’ve already practiced that segue from one slide into the next. That’s how you can really tell you got a confident presenter that has practiced and presented their content multiple times, so they can flow right through it as they change the slides. The second thing you can work on is eye contact. I know especially those podiums, it is really really tempting to look off to the side and look at your presentation slides. But you really want to focus on looking forward, especially in the room that we’re presenting in where you’ve got the dual monitors right in front of you, you have your slides right here, you can have your slide notes right here. And so if you position yourself in the right place, you should be able to see straightforward into those slides without having to look at the presentation behind you, I guarantee it’s not going anywhere, so you don’t have to look at it. Another big thing you can focus on again, is not reading the content of your slides. Ideally, your slide should have bullet points with just two or three words on it that are emphasizing the points that you’re making verbally. And they aren’t the entire content of the point that you’re trying to make. So again, try not to read your slides aloud, but focus on presenting the content and using the slides as a backup. And then of course, the last thing I recommend is, as you’re presenting make sure you’re avoiding words like and like and say, and all of those other filler words that we pick up in our speech. Again, this is a very, very difficult thing to do. And it takes a lot of practice and a lot of experience. To get around that. With a little bit of focus, what you can do is you can actually record yourself giving your presentation and then listen back to your presentation and see what it sounds like as you talk. That’s usually one of the easiest ways to tell if you’re doing this and helps you actually fix that problem.

Finally, most presentations were then on the last slide that simply says questions. I feel like there’s an opportunity here to really improve this slide by simply adding a little bit more design, and also adding a summary of your key points or the takeaways that you want for your presentation. A lot of times when students are trying to think of questions to ask you, it really helps to quickly summarize what your project is, what points you had, what structure you had anything that you can give, maybe even just another quick picture of your GUI outline something to help remind them of what you were talking about. This gives you that last slide. But usually this slide stays up on the screen longer than any other single slide. And so summarizing your key points and really giving this takeaway or some memorable graphic or quote, that can really help sell the point at the end of your presentation. So don’t be afraid to take advantage of even this space to get your presentation point across. Again, you’ve only got eight minutes to present. So you have to be really efficient about your slides really efficient about your talking and make sure that you’re getting it across.

In fact, as I’m recording this video right now, I noticed that the raw cut is about 10 minutes, it will probably get cut down to about eight minutes right there. So that gives you a really good idea of how long it takes to present just a little bit of content. I hope this was very helpful for you. I will post this video hopefully shortly. So hopefully you’re watching this before you give your second presentation. If you have any questions or comments, let me know. I’m happy to work with you to give you some more presentation tips. I also recommend working with your advisors, they can be a great first draft of your presentation. They may even be willing to sit and listen to a earlier rough cut of your presentation to give you feedback on things that you can do to improve before you present it in the class. Best of luck and I look forward to seeing your second presentation starting next week.