Designing Presentation Visuals

What can you show on the screen that you can’t say in your presentation? Depending on the content of your presentation, your verbal argument should be able to stand alone. Therefore, you should think strategically what your slides can add to your presentation. They can:

  1. Reinforce your authority. The audience should look to the screen to fortify the argument through evidence.
  2. Aid in memory. Images connect abstract ideas with a visual, making them easier for your audience to remember.
  3. Bring emotion to your presentation. Illustrating your main points can reinforce your ideas and create an emotional connection to the audience.

Presentation Design Tips

Presentation visuals (such as PowerPoint slides, a Prezi, Keynote slides, etc) should should bolster your argument, not distract from it. To ensure you maintain your audience’s attention, consider the following:

  1. Talk to the audience, not the screen. Face the audience and develop your ethos through non-verbal cues such as eye-contact and gestures.
  2. Don’t simply read what’s on your slides. The audience doesn’t need to see and hear the same thing. The screen should enhance the spoken presentation—not reiterate it.
  3. Keep it simple. Text on the screen should be kept to a minimum. Likewise, when the text is too busy (requiring frequent mouse or keyboard interaction) it is distracting.
  4. Maintain a consistent theme. Whatever you choose as a template, make sure it’s appropriate for the context, and stays consistent throughout.
  5. If discussion is your aim, PowerPoint may not be the medium to use. A PowerPoint presentation is usually thoroughly scripted and does not easily allow for interruption.
  6. Be prepared. Arrive to your presentation early to check the technology, and plan for tech failures. Bring copies of your presentation on paper and your overhead slides.
  7. Practice. Practice out loud with your PowerPoint to make sure your presentation stays within the allotted timeframe. Know your presentation well enough that you don’t have to rely on a script.

Howe Writing Initiative ‧ Farmer School of Business ‧ Miami University

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