Presentation tools such as PowerPoint (as well as alternatives such as Keynote) can help you present ideas or information in an effective manner.
As a general rule, there are two ways to use presentation tools:
First, presentations tools can be used as a complement to you, the presenter, when you are making a presentation in person. In this case, the slides or visuals that you are presenting are usually intended to isolate an idea or fact or example that you will expand upon in your spoken comments.
Second, presentation tools can be used as a replacement for you when the presentation is intended to be accessed in your absence. In this case, the slides or visuals that you are presenting need to be able to stand on their own; that means that you will probably need to enhance the presentation by adding more text to the slides or visuals themselves, by adding text to a “notes” field that the presentation tool might have, or by adding recorded audio narration (in which case the presentation essentially becomes a video tutorial). Here is an example of a narrated PowerPoint presentation.
The following best practices were compiled from Kapterev, Delwiche & Ananthanarayanan, and the University of Western Ontario’s “PowerPoint Primer."
- Avoid premade templates and clipart. Your students will have been subjected to the same material a million times over and there will be nothing to make your content memorable or engaging.
- Use high quality photographs or images. Make sure that you have copyright permission to do so. Search Flickr for images that you can freely and legally use in your presentations (after you go to the page, select the box near the bottom of the page that says "Only search with Creative Commons-licensed content). See this video explaining what the Creative Commons is.
- Avoid sound effects, distracting backgrounds, or gratuitous animations and transitions.
- Pick high contrast colours for the text and background of your slides. Keep the number of colours in your presentation to a bare minimum.
- Use sans-serif fonts, as they are easier to read. Keep the number of fonts in your presentation to a bare minimum.
- Emphasize text with italics rather than underlining. Underlines can obscure letters and make text difficult to read.
- Use a large font size. The bigger the classroom, the larger the font. Don’t use anything smaller than 28-point. Large lecture theatres may require a 40-point font.
- Leave a border around any text. Projectors may cut off the edges of your slides. If your presentation is recorded, captions for the visually impaired may be added, obscuring the bottom portion of the slide.
- Cite your sources. Be a model of academic integrity for your students and provide them with a list of works cited in your PowerPoint slides. This can be included in the notes section of the final slide.
Delwiche, A. & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2004). Pedagogical Value of PowerPoint: Recommendations. EDUCAUSE.
Kapterev, A. (2007). Death by PowerPoint [slide show].
Presentation Skills. Accenture UK Careers.
Creating Universal PowerPoint Content. University of Kentucky.
Power Up Your PowerPoint: Seven Research-Backed Tips for Effective Presentations. American Psychological Association.
Top Ten Slide Tips. Garr Reynolds.
- Lynda.com has very good 90-minute video tutorial explaining how to use the various features of PowerPoint. To access that video tutorial, click the preceding link, then click "Sign-in" in the top left corner, then choose "Sign in with your organizational portal" and type "uwaterloo.ca", then type your usual username and password.
- A lighthearted video highlighting PowerPoint blunders.
- Alternatives to PowerPoint (and other "linear" presentation tools) include Prezi and Glogster. Additionally, some Concept Mapping Tools can also be used to make presentations, as explained in this video.
This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: PowerPoint. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.