5 steps to creating effective visual presentations


Giving a presentation is something that you’ll have to do sooner or later at university. Let’s face it, it’s an important skill for societies, job interviews and other aspects of life too whether you like it or not! If you dread doing presentations, haven’t done one before and don’t know where to start, or just want to know how you can make your good presentations even better, then read on…

1) Start with the content


Our first tip is to start by thinking about what you actually want to say, and how to structure your presentation. Make sure you’re clear about the purpose of the presentation and who your audience is so that your presentation fits the brief. Remember that you don’t need to say everything you know about a topic!

You might find it helpful to plan the structure of the presentation before you dive in and start making slides. Mind mapping can help – there’s lots of software and apps out there you can use, like Mindly or MindManager. Or try telling your key messages to a friend or housemate and see how you get on.

2) Design an effective visual presentation

5 steps to creating effective visual presentations

“A picture is worth a thousand words” as the saying goes. Just remember that your presentation aids (like slides) are supposed to help your audience follow your argument instead of distracting them. Keep it simple, with one or two easy to read fonts and two or three colours. Think about whether your presentation represents steps in a journey or points on either side of an argument. Can you use colour, position or icons to emphasise what you’re showing, or images to represent key concepts?

You might like to use animations or transitions in your presentation, but don’t go overboard – use them wisely so that they highlight rather than distract from your key points.

Think about including images, video or data to enhance your presentation. But (I’ve got my librarian hat on here) please make sure you’re not infringing copyright! Our new Present WISe Moodle course will show you where to find and how to use images that are free to use.

3) Choose the right technology

5 steps to creating effective visual presentations

You’re probably familiar with PowerPoint, but you don’t necessarily need to reach straight for it. There is a range of different technologies you can use – from Prezi to Sway. They have different strengths, so a particular one might be more suited to the presentation you are doing and the story you want to tell.

Take a look at the examples in Present WISe to see what you can do with each technology, compare features and learn about in-built themes, templates or design help to take some of the hard work out of designing a professional-looking presentation. Make sure to check that you’ll be able to use the technology you want to use in the room you will be presenting in.

You can also get help from your fellow students in the peer support Presentation technologies workshops.

Also remember that sometimes your presentation might be better without technology, especially if it is very short and straightforward.

4) Get the delivery right

5 steps to creating effective visual presentations

For many people, including me, this is the hardest part. But don’t worry if you get nervous, here’s a few ideas to help:

  • Practice, practice, practice! Making sure you are familiar with the content will really help. Perhaps ask a friend or family member to watch you practice and give you feedback.
  • Consider your body language. Relax and smile, and don’t fidget! If this is a problem for you, work out what you will do with your hands.
  • Think of your presentation as a conversation with the audience. It will help you feel more relaxed and can encourage questions and participation.
  • Try a workshop or e-book. Student Careers and Skills run a number of workshops including ‘Delivering effective presentations’ and ‘Pitching your ideas’. If you can’t get to campus, the Library has e-books that can help you learn more such as A student’s guide to presentations: Making your presentation count. You can find a list of workshops and e-books in the More help section of Present WISe.

5) Find out more

5 steps to creating effective visual presentations

If you’ve got a presentation coming up, why not check out the Library’s new Present WISe Moodle course for more detail on everything we’ve talked about here? You can dip in and out or follow the whole course. Did we miss your favourite presentation technology? Do you have a burning question that wasn’t answered?

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