6 Tips to improve your presentations

Many of us will need to prepare presentations to show our data publicly when working in the lab. This goes for undergraduate, master or PhD students, Postdocs and even group leaders.

To make sure your presentation is the best it can be, informing and interesting your audience, you will need to follow a few tips. We have compiled these 6 tips to be the most important for making your presentations a success. It starts with knowing the purpose of your presentation.

6 Tips to Improve your Presentations

  • Know the purpose
  • Keep slides clean
  • Know your audience
  • Use relevant images
  • Prepare cue cards
  • Recap at the end

Know the purpose

In order to get your points across well, you need to know what they are. This may sound obvious, but it is crucial. You should have in mind what it is you are wanting to get through to your audience and then plan how to do so.

Along with the main purpose of the presentation, you will need to make it clear what the key points are going to be. This helps to structure what you will say, which in turn makes it easier for others to understand.

Keep slides clean

During the presentation, you want people to listen to you. How are they meant to do this is they are bombarded by distracting slides?

When putting together your presentation, think back to the first point of knowing what it is you want to get across. For each point, you will want to have one slide with a little bit of text and maybe an image (read more below). Adding a few bullet points for sub-topics can help in structuring the presentation. But be sure not to overcrowd the screen, or else everyone will be reading that instead of listening to you.

Keeping your slides clean also refers to limiting the number of different colors, fonts and transitions. These can come across unprofessional and again will be distracting. If your faculty or organization has a typical format for presentations, you should probably follow that.

Know your audience

When preparing the presentation, it is important to keep in mind who you are actually presenting to. This will impact the contents of the presentation significantly, so should definitely be given attention.

You need to know who the audience is in terms of what they will know about the topic of your presentation. This determines where you might need to add extra detail, or even withhold it. If they do not know much about the topic, avoid using jargon. If you do need to use specific terminology make sure you explain it. Otherwise, you will not actually be informing them, rather you will be confusing them.

If they do have knowledge on the topic, you can probably skip explaining basics. This is because it could be boring explaining what they know and even patronizing. Briefly recapping basics may act as a good introduction, but do not spend too long on them.

Use relevant images

Consider adding images to your presentation if it will improve the quality. These images should not be too numerous though, or it will take away from what you are saying (unless of course, the presentation is all about explaining the images).

The images should be good quality, to keep the presentation looking professional and ensure people are not having to strain to actually see the contents. Annotating images can further add to the presentation, aiding your explanation. Of course, do not over-annotate, or else it ends up being distracting.

Prepare cue cards

You want to make sure you are not reading from the screen when presenting. This should already be prevented through limiting what you have written on screen. A result of this is that it might then be tricky to remember all the details you wanted to cover.

To combat this, you could consider writing small cue cards for yourself. Like the slides, these should not be overloaded with information. They should contain just enough to remind you of what you need to be covering. Depending on the person, this may just be a few keywords, bullet points or short sentences. It should not be anything longer, or else you will just end up reading from the cards instead of the screen, which defeats the point of having them.

Recap at the end

To really get your message across to your audience, go back over the main points at the end of the presentation. This will refresh what you said and helps get your points to stick in peoples’ minds. This is especially helpful for longer presentations, when many topics may have been covered. It is also useful if there are multiple presentations taking place in short succession, as it will get yours to stand out.

Make sure to just focus on the most important points, mentioning them briefly. Otherwise, you will end up giving the whole presentation again.

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