Recommended Lecture & Presentation Guidelines

  1. Your presentation too can be boring - the advice on good presentation is not meant only for all those “other” presenters, the unwashed masses. The fact that you may find your topic fascinating does not by itself guarantee that your presentation of it will come across that way. Nor will you avoid the
    presentation errors others make unless you explicitly review your presentation against those
  2. A good presentation requires lots of prep time - It requires more effort, discipline, and work to make an effective presentation. Allow for it.
  3. Slides and narration should be complementary - Many presentations are done either as echoes or as competitions.
    • The echo is when the presenter simply reads what is already on the slide. This wastes your most precious commodity: time.
    • The competition is when both he presenter and the slide contains lots of different narration. If you do this, your audience will not know whether to listen to you or read your slides.
    • Avoid this dilemma by making your slides and your narration to act in complementary fashion. Consider voice and slides as obverse and reverse sides of the same presentation “coin.” A coin should not have two obverse or reverse sides.
    • Corollary. Think carefully—for each and every slide—about “where” you want your audience to focus.  Do you want them to focus on you and what you are saying or what is on you slides? Decide which is which and avoid overlaps. If you want your audience to take a moment to take in the information on a slide, give them that moment. Maybe during that moment you don’t need to say anything.
  4. Slides are low resolution - You can’t fit lots of information in a low-resolution environment. Give up the idea. Work instead with the strengths and opportunities in the low-resolution environment.
  5. Fewer • bullets • is more - Bullets are just mechanisms for lists and lists is not an engaging way to present information. The strength of the list is as a summary. Apart from that, lists are often boring, unremarkable, and non-memorable.  Your shopping list may be of great interest to you and your family, but probably less so to everyone else.
  6. You have ten minutes - According to John Medina, the audience gives its attention in 10 minute-sized packets (at best), after which it needs to be renewed.
  7. Vision trumps all other senses - Slides are primarily visual things. Vision is our single most vivid sensation. Ergo...
  8. Avoid formulaic approaches to slide design - Each slide is an entire chapter for your presentation. Each slide presents unique design challenges and opportunities. It’s fine to have rules of thumb but do not let reliance on those rules gain the upper hand. Sometimes you need to break the rules.
  9. A presentation tells a story - We love stories.  Think of all the ways we are telling each other stories. So don’t read a paper, tell a story. Stories are more engaging.
  10. Goal: a single, clear, unified message - Assume the discipline of making sure all your slides are serving the cause, the cause being your main point, the one you want to make sure your audience walks away with.
  11. Resist the urge to fill empty space on your slides - Empty space is not nothing. Empty space is active. Use it, and don’t feel obligated to fill it. Garr Reynolds rule 13: “Empty space is absolutely crucial for obtaining clarity in your message.” When used effectively, empty space directs attention to what is important.
  12. Start analog/sweat the details - Many folks start designing the presentation directly in PowerPoint, Prezi, or Keynote. Slides should be the last phase of your presentation preparation. Focus should be on the ideas, their coherence, their appropriateness to your audience, and their sequence. Initial focus should not be on the slides. Use mediums other than the presentation tool for this stage in planning.