How to give an effective presentation using PowerPoint

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  • How to...How to give an effective PowerPoint presentation

    154 EDN Winter 2006 Vol. 3 No. 3 Copyright 2006 FEND. Published by John Wiley & Sons

    BackgroundPresentation of teaching orresearch findings is an importantaspect of the work of healthcareprofessionals.1 Many nurses areregularly involved in teachinggroups of professionals and areincreasingly expected to presenttheir work at national and interna-tional meetings. In this technolo-gical age, electronic presentationshave become the norm and arealmost universally expected, withPowerPoint being the most com-monly used computer based pres-entation package.2 The advantagesof such presentations include costsavings, portability, easy updatingcapability and multimedia func-tions such as animation, video andsound.3 Although multimedia tech-nology, in principle, may helpspeakers deliver more effective presentations,4 inappropriate useof PowerPoint features can down-grade the quality of a presenta-tion.1 The effectiveness of any lecture does not depend predomi-nantly on the quality of the visual

    aids, but on the ability of the pre-senter to communicate with theaudience.5 Indeed, a stunningvisual presentation will not maskpoor content.6 Identify the mes-sage that you want to get across tothe audience and consider how youcan best achieve this while clearlyexplaining your points and main-taining the listeners attention.

    An awareness of how audiencesrate presentations may also be helpful. Three key factors are considered to be crucial in describing audiences responses: The audiences assessment of

    how well researched and inform-ative the presentation seemed

    The design of the multimediapresentation, including how creative and imaginative it was

    How engaging and entertainingthe audience felt the experienceto be as a whole.4

    Cognitive theory draws attention tothe importance of the relationshipsamong the different media usedduring presentations, particularlywith respect to the cognitive pro-cessing channels used by the audi-ence.4 Mayer presents a model of

    multimedia learning based on theproposition that learning is basedon the processing of informationreceived through two separatechannels with different characteris-tics.7 One channel processes audi-tory or verbal information, theother processes visual or pictorialinformation. Learning takes placethrough the active construction ofknowledge from an interactionbetween information receivedthrough these channels and existing knowledge stored in the learners long-term memory.Interaction between the two chan-nels is typical of this process,4

    therefore presentations using both verbal and pictorial informa-tion can be highly effective, andthis can be achieved by usingPowerPoint.

    This article provides guidancefor those seeking to improve theirpresentation skills, emphasising theneed for practice before the eventand the importance of clear, well-designed slides. The skills requiredto give effective presentations canessentially be learnt and improvedwith practice.

    How to give an effective presentationusing PowerPointM Shepherd*

    SummaryGiving presentations is an important aspect of the healthcare professionals role, withthe use of PowerPoint often being expected. Although multimedia technology mayaid the effectiveness of a presentation care is needed to ensure that inappropriatefeatures do not distract the audience from the key message. The skills required togive effective presentations can be learnt and improved with practice. This articleprovides guidance for those wishing to improve their skills and focuses on theimportance of preparation and practice before the event. It also provides adviceregarding design of the PowerPoint slides and dealing with question and answersessions.

    Eur Diabetes Nursing 2006; 3(3): 154158.

    Key wordsPresentation; PowerPoint; lecture; presentation skills

    AuthorsM Shepherd RGN, PhD, Senior ClinicalResearch Fellow, Peninsula MedicalSchool, Exeter, UK

    *Correspondence to: M Shepherd, Peninsula Medical School,Barrack Road, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UKTel: 01392 406772e-mail:

    Received: 21 July 2006Accepted in revised form:11 August 2006

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  • PreparationOnce you are aware that a presen-tation is required, whether for asmall group or a national meeting,it is worth starting to plan your talkwell in advance. Initially it is impor-tant to consider the size and back-ground of the audience you will beaddressing. The expected size ofthe audience will to some extentinfluence your style of presentation,particularly in terms of how inter-active the presentation may be. It isalso helpful to have some knowl-edge regarding the range of disci-plines or background of the audi-ence and their likely awareness orexperience of the topic you will bediscussing. This information willhelp when planning the level ofyour presentation and can aid youin ensuring that your presentationis tailored to the learning needs ofthe audience. It is appropriate tostart your planning early in order toensure that changes can be made asnecessary; it also allows time topractise and revise your talk.

    The best presentations arerehearsed, not so that the speakermemorises the talk but to facilitatehis or her ability to interact withaudience and portray a relaxedconfident style.5 Practising yourtalk in front of others allowsrehearsal of the timing and high-lights areas where you may need torevise your phrasing in order toexplain difficult topics with greaterease. It is very important to ensurethat your presentation is kept to thetime allocated and it is onlythrough practice to a mock audi-ence that this can be tested accu-rately. Reading the slides aloud toyourself does not give a true reflec-tion of the way in which a talk willbe delivered to a real audience, so enlist the help of colleagues who are prepared to listen to yourtalk before the event. This prepara-tion also enables you to become completely familiar with the slides,

    so you are aware of what is comingnext, and may also help to reducenerves on the day. Practising infront of others also allows construc-tive feedback regarding your style,pace of the presentation and easeof following the slides, as well ashighlighting possible questions. Itis important to avoid reading fromnotes or memorising the entirepresentation as this reduces thepossibility of a relaxed, conversa-tional style which is easiest for theaudience to listen to.

    Further preparation may alsoinclude visiting the room to be used(this may be the same day if thepresentation is at a venue away fromyour usual workplace) in order totest any equipment and becomefamiliar with the setup for control-ling the slide display. Be aware thatmany factors can affect the actualdisplay of your presentation; thismay include different versions ofPowerPoint, computer settings orprojectors. Ensure that you havesaved your presentation onto multi-ple media, e.g. memory stick, lap-top and/or CD-ROM in case thereare technical difficulties. Checkingyour presentation in advance willallow you to make any relevantchanges as necessary. It is helpful tocontact the local organiser before-hand (if they have not contactedyou directly) to check on the soft-ware and hardware available andtheir compatibility with your slides.

    Production of slides Slide templateCare should be taken over the selec-tion of a slide template, as this caneither enhance or downgrade apresentation. Elaborate templatesmay be distracting and can alsodecrease the visibility of the text(Figure 1). A plain backgroundallows the audience to concentrateon the text and not the patternbehind it. Suggestions for the template include a plain white

    background, with dark blue text forthe headings and black for the maintext, or alternatively a royal-bluebackground, with yellow for theheadings and white for main text,both of which provide contrastingcolours for a clear display that iseasy to read. It should be borne inmind that some colours dont proj-ect well and red and green textshould be avoided for those withcolour blindness.

    FontsFonts should be chosen for theirease of reading and clarity at a dis-tance. You may consider usingbold text for the entire presenta-tion as this may project moreclearly. Arial Rounded MT bold is apopular choice for presentations.The size of the font should be largeenough to ensure those at the backof the room can still clearly readthe text; size 3640 is recom-mended for the main heading and2832 for the text.

    Slide contentThe content of your slides is of vitalimportance and although the usualformat would include an introduc-tion, content and summary, youmay chose to start with somethingwhich is likely to arouse the interestof the audience, e.g. a patient case,

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    155EDN Winter 2006 Vol. 3 No. 3 Copyright 2006 FEND. Published by John Wiley & Sons

    Figure 1. An elaborate backgroundcan distract from the text. Note thedisadvantages of using completesentences

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  • and then return to the backgroundor information behind the case. Itis important to introduce yourtopic clearly, but be wary of provid-ing too much background informa-tion initially as this may lose theinterest of your audience. It can beuseful to have a slide towards thebeginning of the talk that indicatesthe structure of the presentation(i.e. a list of subheadings or sec-tions) and to then use these sub-headings during the talk to helpthe audience to keep on track. Ifanyones attention does wander(particularly common during thepost-lunchtime slot!), they will soonbe able to see which stage of thepresentation you have reached.

    Another technique to help theaudience is the careful use of slidetitles. For example, replacing thetitle HbA1c results on insulin orsulphonylurea treatment withImproved HbA1c in patients trans-ferred from insulin to sulphony-lureas arouses greater interest.

    A common fault of scientificpresentations is the use of toomuch text per slide.8 The rule ofsix has been suggested as a guide,which indicates a maximum of sixlines per slide and six words perline.1 The information on the slideshould convey only the main pointsor key words, without the use ofcomplete sentences or punctuation(Figure 2). The text should provide

    some detail which is then expandedby the speaker. This allows the audi-ence to listen to what is being saidwithout trying to read a section ofdetailed text simultaneously. Eachslide should generally be limited toone idea or concept, and use pre-dominantly lower-case letters forease of reading. Non-standardabbreviations should be avoided, assome of the audience will attemptto guess what they mean, or loseinterest. Speakers should not apol-ogise for anything in the presenta-tion; if a slide is hard to read orunderstand it should not be used.1

    One tip to help keep the audi-ences attention is to use the cus-tom animation feature whichallows you to introduce new text onthe click of the mouse cursorrather than showing all the text onthe slide at once. This can be veryeffective and allows the audienceto concentrate on one section oftext at a time. The means of entryand sound chosen should be care-fully selected, as some options canbe distracting. Selecting theappear option is preferable to thefly-in or spin options. There aremany choices but consider thatsome may detract from what youare saying. Another useful option isthe dimming option which can beused when discussing a number ofpoints; in this case the previouspoints are dimmed, so only the cur-rent point is highlighted, allowingthe audience to concentrate on theparticular issue you are discussing.

    Pure text slides should be keptto a minimum. The use of tables,diagrams or graphs help break up apresentation and can be useful toallow explanations in a differentformat. Any figures should beclearly labelled and the speakershould take the audience throughthe slide or table highlighting thekey elements. Images are also animportant part of the educationalcontent of a presentation and can

    dramatically enhance its effective-ness.1 Images should be of goodquality to ensure that they projectclearly; any identifiable informa-tion should be removed. Consent isrequired if using images of patients,although some presenters chooseto cover the eyes with a black box toreduce the possibility of identifica-tion. Graphics should only be usedif they are relevant, but can addhumour to the presentation.

    Anecdotes or stories can attractthe audiences attention but aremost effective when illustrating aprinciple to be taught.5 They canalso improve the audiences abilityto relate to a situation and mayincrease the humorous content.Video clips are increasingly beingused, for example clips of patientsdescribing their experiences, andcan be highly effective andincrease the audiences recollec-tion of the presentation. Care mustbe taken to ensure the quality ofthe video clip and that the volumeis suitable for the room in whichthe presentation will take place.When using video clips for smallgroups I have taken along audiospeakers which can be attached toa laptop; for large lectures mostvenues have speakers alreadyinstalled, however do check thatthe video clips play correctly andthat the volume is appropriatebefore the presentation.

    The presentationHow a speaker appears to the audience will have an impact ontheir reaction to what is presented.It is therefore important to dressappropriately. A smart appearance,usually a suit, is recommended fornational or international meetingsand conferences. A smart butslightly less formal appearance may be acceptable for local presentations.

    The stance and gestures usedare also important and should

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    156 EDN Winter 2006 Vol. 3 No. 3 Copyright 2006 FEND. Published by John Wiley & Sons

    Figure 2. An illustration of effectivepresentation of information

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  • be practised before the final presentation. All speakers shouldstand for their presentation, evenwhen addressing a small group, asthis promotes a more professionalstyle. Any gestures should be natural and fidgeting or shufflingminimised as these are distracting.You should always face the audience and aim to make eye con-tact by moving your eyes across theroom. Even if the lights are dimmedyou should maintain this approach.

    Try to use a natural conversa-tional tone as this helps to engagethe audience. Use a pace which isslow enough for the audience tohear and assimilate what has beensaid. This requires practice as it iscommon to rush when nervous,making it difficult for the audienceto interpret the information. (Thisis especially important when thespeaker is presenting in their non-native language). In larger audito-ria microphones may either bestatic and based on the podium, orclipped to the speakers clothing.When using a static microphone itis essential not to turn around tolook at your slide while speaking, asthe audience will no longer be ableto hear you.

    When moving from one slide orsection of text to the next be sure topress the down-arrow key or mousecursor firmly once. If you are nerv-ous you may press the button lightlyand then press it again before it isnecessary and find you have pro-gressed two slides at once. If thishappens dont panic, just press theup arrow or right-hand mouse keyto return to the previous slide.

    When using visual aids, forexample tables or graphs, ensurethat you orientate the audiencewith an adequate description, pointout the relevant findings and allow time for the audience toassimilate the information beforemoving on.5 Using a laser pointeror mouse cursor can be helpful

    when describing tables or graphs,but movements should be purpose-ful. If you think your hand is likelyto shake too much then using amouse cursor may be preferableand also allows you to continue toface the audience at all times.

    Be aware of the time you are taking to ensure that you maintainan appropriate pace. Although itmay appear to be advantageous tofinish early this suggests to the audi-ence that you are unprepared andallows more time for questions atthe end. Conversely, if you run overtime the audience is likely to loseattention very quickly and yourtake-home message may be lost. It is especially irritating if you run into coffee time and it mayalso make you unpopular with the following speakers.

    Audience participation is impor-tant during presentations, but ismore difficult to manage if theaudience is large. In smaller groupsinvolving the audience in discus-sions is helpful in assessing whetherthe audience understands the con-cepts and also helps to break up thesession and maintains the audi-ences interest. Participation maydiffer in audiences with a differentlanguage who are concentrating tounderstand; it does not necessarilyindicate lack of interest. A lack ofparticipation may also be due to dif-ference in culture, where askingquestions and participating in alively discussion is not the norm,especially where different membersof the hierarchy are together in theaudience. Aim for an effective fin-ish to your presentation rather thana long list of acknowledgements. Itcan be useful to summarise thetake-home messages, and forsmaller audiences printed hand-outs of the slides may be helpful.

    Question-and-answer sessionsDealing with questions from the audience following the

    presentation can be daunting forthe novice presenter. Think aheadof questions that may be asked andduring practice sessions ask yourmock audience to pose questionsat the end. This will give you prac-tice in dealing with questions andwill allow you to prepare some pos-sible answers in advance. Oftenyou will have been asked to speakas you have particular expertise inan area, and you should not feeldaunted by questions which areasked out of genuine interest or toseek clarification. Dealing withquestions effectively can be a keymeans of promoting a dynamicclosure and providing a consistentreinforcement of your message.9

    Do not be afraid to ask the questioner to repeat or clarifytheir question; if you did notunderstand it is likely that members of the audience did notunderstand either.

    DiscussionThree factors provide a frameworkwhich speakers may consider when designing a presentation.The speaker must decide on thebalance appropriate for the purpose of the presentation andthe audience concerned. In partic-ular the speaker must decide howmuch emphasis should be put on: Ensuring that the presentation is

    well researched and informative High-quality design including

    the use of multimedia Entertaining the audience and

    making the experience enjoyable.4

    Improving the visual design ofyour presentation should achievefour basic goals in achieving yourmessage by: Ensuring legibility Reducing the effort required to

    interpret the message Increasing the viewers active

    engagement with the message Focusing attention on the most

    important parts of the message.10

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  • When you next attend a presentation view it with a criticaleye and consider other lecturesyouve attended; reflect on whatwent well and what could have beenimproved as this will ensure that youlearn from other presenters. Basictechniques for improving your pres-entation skills can be learnt andrefined with practice. Giving pre-sentations can be a rewarding expe-rience; not only are you sharingyour own knowledge in a particularsubject area but you are potentiallyincreasing interest and awarenessamong others and making new contacts.

    Conflict of interest statement:None

    References1. Collins J. Education Techniques for

    Lifelong learning: Making a Power-Point presentation1. RadioGraphics2004; 24: 11771183.

    2. Scarsbrook AF, Graham RNJ, Perriss RW. Expanding the use of Microsoft PowerPoint. An overviewfor radiologists. Clin Rad 2006;61(2): 113123.

    3. Niamtu J. The power of PowerPoint.Plast Reconstr Surg 2001; 108(2):466484.

    4. Christie B, Collyer J. Audiencesjudgements of speakers who usemultimedia as a presentation aid: acontribution to training and assess-ment. Br J Educ Technol 2005; 36(3):14671485.

    5. Collins J. Education techniques forlifelong learning: making aPowerPoint presentation: the art

    of communicating effectively1.RadioGraphics 2004; 24: 11851192.

    6. Dodds C. PowerPoint presentations.Curr Anaesth Crit Care 2004; 15(1):6973.

    7. Mayer RE. Multimedia Learning.Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 2001.

    8. Collins J, Mullan BF, Holbert JM.Evaluation of speakers at a nationalradiology continuing medical education course. Med Educ Online2002; 7: 17. Available at [Accessed 10 July 2006].

    9. Vollman KM. Enhancing presenta-tion skills for the advanced practicenurse: strategies for success. Adv PractAcute Crit Care 2005; 16(1): 677.

    10.Gerstle DS. Grab their attention!Make your point! Am J Matern ChildNurs 1999; 24(5): 257261.

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    158 EDN Winter 2006 Vol. 3 No. 3 Copyright 2006 FEND. Published by John Wiley & Sons

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