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Presentation Best Practices

Focus on Your Message

What is your goal? What is the significance of the content?  What do you want the audience to walk away saying?

  • Limit your presentation to one significant message and, if necessary, up to three supporting points.
  • Can you sum up your message in 15 words or less?  This gives your audience a memorable, repeatable takeaway.
  • Explicitly tell your audience the goal and wrap up your presentation by repeating and summarizing.

Tell a Story

Entertain your audience by structuring the content as a story.

  • Having a start, middle and end to your content not only guides you as the speaker, it makes your presentation more memorable for your audience.

Be Authentic

You’re an expert in your field, you’re passionate about your topic. Let it show!

  • Passion attracts attention, and attention leads to action.
  • Your comfort with content, receptivity to questions and ability to address tangents while continuing to focus on your main message all bolster your relationship with your audience as well as the message itself.

Create a Presentation-Not a Document

Presentations are visual. Presentation materials are merely tools to further augment the real content; your thoughts, ideas and speech around the subject.

  • Remember, no one wants to show up just to have you read your presentation to them.
  • Use a combination of materials; audio, text, photographs, video, anything that amplifies your message.
  • If using slides, limit your presentation to one message per slide; if you must use bullets, never exceed one line of text per bullet.

Increase Your Interactions

Who says a presentation can’t be interactive? Good presentations allow for audience focus to occasionally change, to rest, and to resume.

  • Inserting a blank slide allows you and your audience to regroup.  The blank slide allows a pause for questions, for directed learner self-reflection or for a bit of catch up on note taking.  Pause at your blank slide, if you are facilitating a face-to-face lecture, you might even replay the slides leading up to the blank, silently, as a type of review.
  • In some cases, for example online courses, you may have the ability to create some aspects of your presentation with your peers or with students through tools such as Google Slides.

Be Colorful

Color is powerful. Color helps to focus the viewer’s attention. Color means something is important.

  • But with great power… comes great responsibility. Avoid using complementary colors like red and green, blue and orange or purple and yellow as text and background colors. These colors are often difficult to view and worse yet, for color blind individuals, they may present nothing to view at all.
  • Be cognizant of how colors will appear.  Are you presenting in a dark room? Maybe you want a light background and dark text to assure materials are easy to view.

Show Them Your Big Idea

The old saying may be cliché, but it is also true, pictures really do say a thousand words. Images and symbols hold meaning, spark memory recall and help to connect concepts and ideas.

  • Choose images carefully. Images evoke a type of brand imagery, and the brand, is you. Do you want that brand to be clip art?
  • Finding images that align with your concepts can take time and imagination, if you can’t find images available in free channels such as Flickr and Creative Commons, don’t be afraid to photograph your own.
  • Choose a visual theme, it not only unifies your presentation materials, but can help to reinforce your message.

Practice Good Visual Design

Highly effective presentations, no matter the tool they are created in, follow some basic rules of graphic design.

  • Use no more than three fonts and three text sizes. Not only does this make your materials easier to process visually, the consistency will give your presentation a polished look. Try to use sans serif fonts which appear clearer than serif fonts when projected.
  • Align content via a grid. Grids allow you to maintain a sense of balance and symmetry. Many presentation tools, such as PowerPoint offer a grid overlay option.
  • Keep your fonts as large as possible without filling the entire space or creating a disjointed sentence.  Design for the audience member in the last row.

Limit Distractions

Keep your audience focused on your message by limiting distractions.

  • Are your audience members straining to hear you through a faulty microphone or poor recorded audio? They will eventually tune out.
  • Avoid animations, and slide transitions. How do these support your message? They don’t.
  • Reading and listening are difficult to do simultaneously. Text wins. Your spoken words disappear. Resist filling your slide or space with lots of text. Remember, one message per slide.Let your speech fill the white space.
  • Do your images support your message? Is the image itself interesting enough to catch the viewer’s eye? Avoid generic clip art. Equally, avoid low resolution images that appear distorted.

Limit Time to Conquer the Wandering Eye

Even with stunning visuals, an engaging story and lack of distractions, lecturers and presenters battle the human attention span.  Don’t fight it, conquer it by changing your methods.

  • Express as much as you can in the least number of slides.
  • Attempt to work with our natural 20 minute attention span.
  • Break up your presentation with interaction with your audience, through questions and reflection or insertion of videos and audio snippets.
  • For complex topics, break up your presentation into smaller segments.


  • Google Slides
  • Keynote
  • Haiku Deck
  • Explain Everything
  • PowerPoint (iOS)
  • Animoto (iOS)
  • Prezi (create on desktop and view through app for android or iOS)

Additional Resources

CEHD Video: Presentation and Screen Recording Best Practices (YouTube, 7:30 mins)

Webcam Glam: 3 Easy Tricks to Looking Polished in Video Chats (Article)

This article has some quick tips for looking your best when on your laptop’s webcam. These tips work great for recording too!

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