Wednesday, April 22, 2020

“And snap! The job’s a game!”: Making Effective Presentations Has Never Been Easier

Everyone’s seen at least one terrible presentation. It was boring, uninformative, confusing . . . With so many bad examples of how to create and present slideshows, we have to be very careful in deciding what advice to follow. Here are some simple tips to keep your presentations from falling flat.

The presenter had way too much fun
with this slide, and the audience
won't have any in trying to read it.
The slideshow itself is the core that can make or break your presentation. One of many guiding videos for PowerPoint, “Life After Death by PowerPoint” presents a comical lesson on frequent design downfalls. Many of the tips given are ones everyone should know:

1) Don’t overload your slides with words — Don’t write the transcript of your entire speech, and don’t overdo the bullet points.
2) Spell check! As Don McMillan says, “Nothing makes you lok stupder then speling erors.”
3) Exercise moderation in color scheme, number of slides, amount of data, and visual effects. 

A good slideshow will augment your presentation without distracting from it. Keep it simple.

No one wants audience members to fall asleep during their presentation. In addition to being embarrassing, it means you’re not fulfilling your purpose of teaching the audience. The key is keeping them interested and engaged, and there are a few ways to accomplish that.

“Did you know that you normally lose 90% of your audience
within the first 5 minutes of your presentation?”

MLC's depiction of audience attention span
Hooking the audience from the beginning is extremely important, and an article from MLC Presentation Design Consulting offers a detailed list of different tactics. For example, you can tell a story (personal anecdote or invented narrative), interact with audience members by asking questions, offer surprising information that will shock them into interest, cite a famous quote, or make the audience laugh.

Speaking of laughter, humor can be very useful in retaining audience interest, provided you take care in choosing your jokes. Humor should not be tasteless or crude, and it shouldn’t be cringeworthy either. But if care is taken, humor can be an extremely useful ally in the fight for audience attention.

The third key piece to an effective presentation is diction. Speakers are easiest to understand when they talk clearly and at a reasonable speed. Vocabulary should be common enough for the audience to understand, with any unusual terms explained. If they can’t understand what you’re saying, they’re likely to stop paying attention.
Close, but not really.

Also extremely vital is that you do enough research to know what you’re talking about. It can look really bad when a presenter gets something very wrong and the audience knows it. And if someone asks a question, don’t make up an answer just so you can retain the pretense of knowledge. Giving false information is bad on its own, but it’s also a sure way to lose credit with your audience.

Finally, presentation notes also fall into that gray area of help vs. hinder. Notes are extremely useful for keeping speech smooth, and they are recommended for anyone who can’t recite everything without cues. However, you don’t want to bury your face in your notes for too long lest you ignore your audience.

As I prepare for the oral presentation of my Artificial Intelligence final project, the issue of how to create a quality presentation is very much on my mind. I’ve already been conscious of most of these tips and potential pitfalls for years, so I will definitely work on them in my presentation. The part that will need the most thought is how to engage the audience. Given the 10-minute time-constraint and the current digital nature of the class, some engagement efforts, such as getting the audience to participate, might not be quite as feasible. But things like quotes, surprising facts, and stories can still be quite useful.

Creating and delivering an effective presentation can be difficult, but, with the right tips, it can be as easy as pie.

Happy Presenting!

Just because, here are some more presentation images and comics for your enjoyment:


  1. Hi Victoria,

    This is Michelle M. I loved the comments that you used, they were so funny! I also enjoyed the YouTube video on presentation pitfalls, it was funny and very accurate, and added good additional information and guidance to your blog post for your readers. I like what you said about, if you don't know the answer, don't make it up. It is embarrassing to not know the answer to a person's question, but it is more embarrassing and unhelpful to just make one up. I also appreciated what you said about vocabulary, don't use terms your audience won't recognize unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, it is helpful to have the definition as one of the bullet points on your slide.

  2. Kunwar Ishan SharmaApril 23, 2020 at 4:51 PM

    Hey, Victoria! This was amazing. I noticed a common theme with your suggestions, which has to do with the content of the presentation. Whether it's the way content is displayed on a slide, your knowledge of the content, or the way you say it aloud, you make great points about the content needing to be sound in all aspects. I also alluded to the need for sound content (in its various forms), as well as certain aspects to improve the clarity with which I speak. Overall, I'm glad your suggestions help to reinforce my own, and given the hilarious and compelling nature of your blog, I'm very excited to see your presentation.

  3. Hey Victoria,
    I love your details on presentation, especially the images you used made this even better. Also, your use of links was great as they strengthen your blog even more. I’ll remember those for sure. I enjoy that you have links to show the videos as I can tell you like to be prepared for any obstacle. The way you define your step by step to make the perfect presentation has made even take note of to better prepare me for future presentations.

  4. Victoria, I'm really glad you gave us some bad examples alongside the good ones for giving presentations! Being able to recognize what may not work is just as important as looking at what will. Likewise, your tips on a proper presentation are very thoughtfully curated, and I'm happy to say I'll be looking at your blog again when trying to prep my own stuff! I'm sure your own presentation will be bomb, and I wish you the best luck!