By Michael Bentley
Every student remembers that presentation they made for either a class or a Presentation of Learning (POL) for d.lab that did not go well at all. Remember the dread that you felt as you realized you had to get in front of the whole class with the garbage you made at midnight the night before. As you presented, you tried to salvage the clear lack of effort you put into your presentation, but knew it was going poorly and that audience thought so too. Most students have had a similar experience of presenting in front of an audience that they can look back on as an embarrassing memory they would never like to repeat. While I might not be able to help you stop procrastinating, I can help you make a decent slide deck. This is key to making your awkward POL experience slightly better. Freshman, Paul Dowd, described his experience giving a presentation as “stressful and uncomfortable,” but after reading these guiding principles he says he can feel confident in his work. Or at least the slide deck. Junior Matthew Silverman said “Watching the other POLs was the worst part,” but I have good news for him. After students read this article, other students’ presentations might be slightly less bad.
1) Ditch the Prezi
First and foremost, do not use Prezi. Every time I watch a presentation using Prezi, with all its laggy and dizzying animations, I die a little on the inside. Nothing is added to a presentation by including over-the-top transition effects. The 90 degree turn, 180 backflip mctwist animations that Prezi features only distract from what you’re saying. Nobody is going to think, “That presentation was poorly made, but, you know, those were some sweet animations. A+.” A solid alternative to Prezi is to use Google Slides with a pleasing slide theme. Just be careful not to run into the awkward situation of having the same theme as the person before you. Just remember this guiding principle for presentations – if your slides give someone motion sickness then you are doing something wrong.
“Nothing is added to a presentation by including over-the-top transition effects. The 90 degree turn, 180 backflip mctwist animations that Prezi features only distract from what you’re saying.”
2) Reduce the number of words on slides
One of the most common issues I see even seniors struggle with during presentations is putting too much text on a slide. A slide should not be a huge block of text. If you can construct an essay with what you wrote, then you’re doing something wrong. Freshman Leo Hirano said a presentation with too much text on it “looks like someone who was explained to in great detail what a presentation is, but they haven’t actually seen one.” Also, often times when students put full sentences on their slides they end up reading off their slide like an audiobook narrator. Audience members will either read the slides and not listen, or listen and ignore the slides, neither of which you want. If you find yourself having to adjust the font of your text to fit everything on your slide then you know you are using to much text. The viewers should not have to use a microscope to read your text. A good guiding principle is to have no full sentences on your slides.
3) Don’t overlay text on images of the same color
Now comes the worst of all presentation sins – Placing text on images. Thankfully, I rarely see this happen, but it is such a huge mistake that I have to mention it. Every time a student makes a presentation with text on an image, my liver becomes one step closer to failing from taking in all the bad presentations. There is just no reason why people should think it is a good idea to put white text on a partly white image. Do they expect people to be able to read it? Now some people try to be clever and solve this issue by coloring their text to contrast the varying color of the background image. I must admit when I was an immature middle school student I may have done that a few times, but it was awful every time. The text always looks out of place and distracts from what the speaker is saying.
Please learn from some of these basic guiding principles of slide creation, and don’t make the amateur mistakes that many students have made in the past. By following my principles you will not necessarily have a decent presentation but at least your slide deck will be good.