Presentation tools such as PowerPoint (as well as alternatives such as Keynote) can help you present ideas or information in an effective manner.

Evidence of Efficacy

Best Practices

  • As a general rule, there are two ways to use presentation tools:
    • 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.
    • 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 screencast). Study this example of a slide-based presentation, which was first presented in person and which then had audio narration added to it.
  • If you use images in your presentation, you should endeavour to 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.
  • Regarding slide design, Ronald Berk, of John Hopkins University, has compiled the following guidelines in his article Research on PowerPoint: From basic features to multimedia (PDF):​
    • Slide background: Choose a simple template or solid colour background that will not distract from word or image content; avoid logos and other irrelevant graphics or minimize their size;
    • Font:  Use a minimum of 20 pt (text) and 32 pt (heads); pick Gill Sans, Sans Serif, Arial, or similar fonts, which are clear, interesting,  attractive, and professional; make sure every word can be read easily from the back of the room;
    • Text or bullet points: Apply the “less is more” rule with minimal amount of text and number of bullet points (3−6), plus highlight key points and order with upper  and lower cases,  bold,  italics, numbers, blanks, and high-contrast coloured words or phrases;
    • Titles and headings: Create a full-sentence heading (written as an assertion) that briefly summarizes content compared to a word or phrase, especially with a clear supportive graphic;
    • Colour: Pick high-contrast colours with a cool background (blue or green) and warm text (yellow, orange, or red), which is easy to read (Note: Colours and resolution may vary with projectors, so adjust colours during rehearsal.);
    • Images: Add bold, colourful, 2D (not 3D), high-impact, high-quality, strong, dynamic (animated) graphics (photos, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams) that make a specific point with no detail; words should appear near images and narration or dialogue should accompany images, where appropriate; avoid irrelevant images;
    • Engagement: Infuse all active, cooperative, and collaborative learning activities into slides so students are connected from beginning to end (see Berk, 2011);
    • Movement: Use slide transitions systematically throughout presentation; letter, word, and graphic animation can be effective, especially when accompanied by familiar music or sound effects;
    • Music: Sync music with which students are familiar to animated heads, text, lists, images, and demonstrations  to create emotional connections; avoid irrelevant sounds, except for humour;
    • Videos: Embed video clips from YouTube, TV, movies, or student projects into slides or stream in clips for powerful, memorable multimedia learning experiences.

More Resources

teaching tipsThis 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.