The golden rules of on-screen presentation

If you are old enough to remember giving presentations with acetate sheets on an overhead projector, then you will recall the arrival of Microsoft PowerPoint as an information revolution. Suddenly, you could share, swap, update or reuse content as required. Anyone with a computer could look professional because it was quick and easy to assemble – and embellish – a killer presentation.

Of course, being able to pull a bunch of slides together quickly does not guarantee you will create an effective tool for communication. So, how do you hold an audience’s attention when you are stuck with the graveyard slot before lunch on Friday? We asked the experts at RSK for their top tips for on-screen presentations.

  • Put the detail in your notes and use concise headings on the slides.
  • On-screen KISS: Keep It Straightforward and Simple
  • How many slides do you need to tell the story? Do not assume a click every 30 seconds.
  • Effective presenters usually spend more than a minute explaining each slide.
  • A 15-minute talk should have a maximum of 12 slides, not 30 or more.
  • Use FOAM: place a Fact, Opinion, Anecdote or Metaphor on each slide to engage the audience.
  • You do not have to tell the whole story on-screen. Broach the idea and allow the audience to think about what you are showing them.
  • Consider a Q&A approach: show a picture with a striking statistic or a bold statement that poses a question that you will answer in spoken content.
  • Choose fonts and font sizes that are readable and consistent: sans serif fonts such as Arial and Helvetica are the easiest to read.
  • One font is (usually) enough.
  • Use a corporate template if there is one or have one created for you; contact us for details!
  • Ensure continuity from frame to frame, including layout, margins, colours and graphics.
  • Think carefully about the combination of font colour and background.
  • Do not use WordArt, stick figures or clip art to make your slides special: they do not work.
  • If you want transitions between slides, choose one and use it for the entire presentation
  • What matters most is the message, not how fancily you have dressed it up.
  • One good graphic or chart can tell your whole story.
  • But the information must be correct and readable.
  • Pay special attention to the legibility of graph axes and data labels.
  • Telling stories
  • Explaining concepts
  • Stressing key messages
  • Providing a break in the flow of the presentation.
  • No more than five bullets in any list.
  • Keep them concise and on one line if possible.
  • Do not duplicate points.
  • Reading and listening are different skills.
  • If you expect your audience to do both at once, they will miss some of your content.
  • Show the slide, explain it if necessary and then turn all your attention to the audience.
  • Great presentations are much more than a pack of slides.
  • The audience came to see you presenting.
  • Never stand with your back to the audience and read the slide content.
  • Being comfortable and familiar with the content means that you can spend more time making eye contact with the audience, which is the hallmark of a good communicator.

Turning a slide pack into a compelling piece of communication can be time-consuming. Of course, you could always get some help from the people who make presentations for a living.