Class presentations can be nerve-wracking. There’s a lot of pressure on you to do well, and you feel judged by both the professor and your classmates. Not to mention, you have to prepare a PowerPoint presentation that’s being graded on top of whatever you actually say.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be well-prepared with near-perfect slides!
1. Keep the text to a minimum.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make, even when the professor emphasizes that you shouldn’t do this. You really don’t need to put every single thing you’re going to say on the slides – and shouldn’t! Only put on the main points, because that’s the important stuff you’re expanding on as you speak.
If you have sub-points, bullet them under the main point – but only use keywords and short sentences. Keep all the smaller things in your notes.No one wants to read your slide, they want to hear you talk about it! (Plus your professors will probably take points off if you do this.)
2. Follow the 7-by-7 rule.
My Odyssey co-leader told me about this rule. Essentially, you should have a maximum of 7 bullet points per slide with 7 words per bullet point. Full sentences aren’t required. This can be a really handy way to cut down on the amount of text you have on your slides, and figure out exactly which information is the most important and should be up there.
3. Please don’t just read off your slides…
There is nothing more irritating – and boring – than when someone just reads what’s on the screen. Doing this is a surefire way to make sure everyone in the class is bored and not listening.
And why should they bother to listen if they can just read all the information? Your slides are meant to be a visual aid that highlights your main points, not give your presentation for you! Show you know what you’re talking about and look at the audience, not the slides.
4. …and please look up from your notes!
If you look down the whole time at your notes, it’ll be harder for everyone to hear you. Besides, you should be familiar with the information you’re presenting by this point. If you’re still reliant on your notes, try to look down sporadically rather than keeping them down the whole time. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a couple of minor details.
5. You don’t need images or GIFs on every slide.
This is one I learned the long way. I got so used to teachers and professors stressing visually interesting slides, that I thought I needed at least one image or graphic on each slide.
DEFINITELY not the case. Doing this just creates distracting clutter on your slides. Keep it simple, and only add images when they’ll emphasize what you’re talking about. For example, if you’re presenting on a person, include pictures of them.
6. Actually, just avoid GIFs altogether.
For one, it’s hard to be taken seriously when you have something as casual as a GIF on your presentation. They can also be distracting from what you’re saying and the onscreen text.
If you’re going to use a GIF, either put it on a slide that you’ll be going through quickly or make sure it’s absolutely relevant to the content. For example, if you’re doing a presentation on a TV show or movie, then it’s acceptable. Just don’t overdo it!
7. Stick to clean themes.
PowerPoint and Google Slides both offer different themes for the slides’ backgrounds. Be sure you’re choosing one that still leaves room for your text, and won’t make the text seem crowded! And definitely don’t use a picture as the background, especially if you’re going to put text over it. Text over an image will be unreadable and create too busy a scene.
8. Keep the fonts simple.
If the fonts you’re using aren’t easy to read, then it won’t matter what you put up there. Stick to simple fonts like Calibri, Ariel, Montserrat, and anything else that doesn’t involve looping or script. This goes for header text as well – otherwise, how will anyone know what you’re talking about?
9. Keep away from bright colors and remember, less color is more.
Please don’t use bright colors against a white screen. No one will be able to read it, including you! Stick with black or darker colors against lighter backgrounds and white or lighter colors against darker backgrounds. Also, stick to about 2 colors for fonts throughout the slides. Keep it consistent, rather than changing it up for each slide!
This sounds obvious, but I’ve sat through many a presentation where it was clear the person hadn’t practiced beforehand. Practicing your presentation can help you memorize the information so you’re not looking down at your notes every few seconds. It’ll also help you feel more confident once you get up there because the words are familiar by now.
11. Time yourself while you practice.
There is not a single class where your presentation won’t have a time limit. I’ve seen people who clearly didn’t do this and either went below or way over the time limits. Timing your presentation can help you figure out if you need to include more or less information, and ensure you don’t lose precious points for timing!
12. HAVE GOOD NOTES!
This one is important. You can have perfect-looking slides, but if you don’t have notes to go with it, you’re kind of screwed. Having everything you plan to say in the presentation written down makes you look more prepared and ensures you don’t forget anything important! Additionally, the act of writing it down is a great memorization technique.