Presentation Tips: Getting the Most Out of Your Visuals

This is the second post in the Presentation Tips series.  The suggestions in this series are based on observations of trainings and presentations during the 2008-2009 school year. Tag: Presentation Tips.

When giving a presentation the visuals you choose to incorporate can greatly add or detract from your effectiveness as a speaker.  Be sure to carefully consider how you are using your visuals to support your content.

There are two books that I highly recommend to people who are looking to refine their presentation skills. The first is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  This book is an easy read with a lot of information on how to make your presentations more powerful and effective.  It is a great place to get started if you want to know more about presentation design.  Garr also has a Presentation Zen Blog, which is a great resource.  The second book I would recommend is Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte.   This book delves more deeply into the design principles of good presentations and has some great food for thought.  Both of these books have shifted the way I approach presentation design for professional development and for use in the classroom.

Before designing your presentation, decide the purpose of your visuals/slides.  Do you need them to help support the content of your presentation? Are they a way to better include your visual learners?  Do your slides need to stand alone for absent colleagues or students?  Would your content be better served with no visuals?  Whatever the reason, decide ahead of time and use that to guide the design of your presentation.


  • If you have participants doing various activities (group work, breaks, etc.) use Power Point or Dashboard timers to give a visual cue of how much time is available and to signal when time is up.  It helps you to regain your audience more quickly.
  • Turn off your screen saver, especially if it contains personal photos. I have seen these become highly distracting to the audience because the presenter’s photos can be so very interesting!
  • Clean up your computer desktop. LOOK organized, even if you aren’t. 🙂


  • Videos should be short, relevant, and to the point. Unless this is the stated purpose of your presentation, avoid long videos.
  • If you are using video clips, try to embed them into your slide show.
  • Are you using a site like YouTube to show your videos?  Be sure to use the full screen option when playing them.  This allows better viewing of the clip and minimizes distractions from website “clutter” that often surrounds online videos.


  • When presenting with a PowerPoint/Keynote or other visual aide, do not put a slide up until you are going to discuss it. As soon as your slide changes, so does the focus of your audience.
  • Are you at a conference? Be sure to have a title slide up while people enter so they know if they are in the right place.
  • Whenever possible, include less info and make you slides more concise and visually appealing.
  • Avoid reading your slides to your audience & avoid having all of your info on your slides.  If you are doing either other these things, the audience only needs a copy of your slides.  You are the reason they are present, not your PowerPoint.
  • Be sure that your audience can easily read your materials.  People should always be able to read your slides both on the wall and on any handout.
  • Looking for high quality creative commons images?  Use the advanced search features on Flickr, Google Images, or other image search engines to specify images that fit your use requirements.  My personal favorite is currently Compfight, a Flickr search engine.  Be sure to provide attribution for the images you use either on the slide, a works cited page, or a link to a gallery of the image sources.
  • Be sure to include a works cited slide if you did not cite your sources in your presentation.
  • Consider including a “Teaching Strategies Used” slide at the end of your presentation. This helps to show that you practice what you preach in terms of instructional strategies and allows your audience to learn more.

Some useful resources:

Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen blog

Jan Schultink’s Slides that Stick blog

Ethos 3 Communications: Empowering Presenters – Company Blog

Will Lion’s Flickr Photostream of presentation slides

Flickr Group: Great Quotes About Learning and Change

If you have comments or questions on any of the tips provided or if you would like to add your own tips, please feel free to comment. Thank you!


Presentation Tips: Handouts

CC Licensed Flickr photo by this lyre lark
CC Licensed Flickr photo by this lyre lark

For the past few years, I’ve been using a Moleskine notebook to keep track of notes in meetings and professional development presentations.  I find having less paper to shuffle around and keeping everything in one place works very well for me.  As an Instructional Facilitator, I have been making a conscious effort to study the presentations of others so I may improve my own skills.  Being an IF (and a new district employee) has also given me the opportunity to see many presenters in action.  For about a year and a half, I’ve been putting presentation suggestions in the back few pages of my notebook.  Some of my colleagues have noticed this, and offered their own suggestions to be written down in the book.  What you see here is the compilation of professional development presentation suggestions from 2008-2009.  My colleagues and I have also worked to include these ideas in the presentations that we give.  These suggestions will be a series of posts on topics such as preparation, materials (handouts, food, tech, music, etc.), use of time, presentation slides, and others.  I will be using the tag “Presentation Tips.”

Handouts: Professional development can involve a lot of paper.  These are some of the ideas we suggest to help streamline the process and to be sure your handouts are user friendly.

  • Do you have a handout you want people to grab as they walk in? Put them somewhere obvious and in plain site.
  • You can use handouts to indicate where you would like your audience to sit.  Place handouts or goodies in only the front rows, group areas, or other places where you would like people to situate themselves.
  • Have an agenda and try to honor it. Make it available to everyone through a handout, email, etc.  It is also a good idea to have this posted somewhere in the room.
  • Make copies on different colors of paper for easy reference. (Please refer to the blue copy, green packet, etc.)
  • Include easy to find page numbers on multi-page handouts.  Even if these are hand written on the originals and then copied, they make packets much more user friendly.
  • Handouts printed in color ink can grab the attention of your audience and show them you cared enough to make that extra effort.
  • Avoid PowerPoint format handouts. Rather, give people information that can be used and/or referenced in your presentation. Good slides are “little statements that would be a waste of paper.”Jane Kise
  • Be sure that everything on your handouts can be easily read. I see people run into the “legibility” issue most often with data (charts, graphs, etc.)

Looking to go Paperless? If your audience has access to computers during the presentation, consider the following options:

  • Hand out a collection of related resources on CDs, DVDs, or flash drives.  This method allows you to easily provide additional resources and can help you differentiate for your audience.  Be sure that your materials are both Windows and Mac friendly.
  • Upload handouts to GoogleDocs or similar web applications where your audience can easily access them.  If you choose this route, but sure your audience is comfortable using the web application you have chosen.
  • Include a reference list of web resources using a social bookmarking site such as Diigo or Delicious.  This can be especially helpful if you or your audience will be using various websites during your presentation.  You can also use this method to provide additional resources or websites/research cited in the presentation.  This Diigo resource list is an example from one of my tech classes.
  • Comic Life and similar graphic design programs make easy to follow how-to guides for technology presentations.  See an example here.

If you have comments or questions on any of the tips provided or if you would like to add your own tips, please feel free to comment.  Thank you!