Effective Presentations

What is a classroom presentation?

Presentations are designed to inform, educate, inspire, persuade, or entertain. They are most effective when the message is clear and easy to understand. If your message is lost in a whirlwind of visual effects, you will lose or confuse your audience (Feiermann, 2003). 

When combined with verbal instruction, the use of diagrams, charts, sounds, and video can enhance the material being presented and make it more accessible to all learners.

What are some general guidelines for creating an effective presentation?

There are many guidelines that can aid in the implementation of presentations that effectively meet the diverse learning needs of all students. When creating a classroom presentation, it is critical to keep the audience in mind. Several general guidelines that can assist in the creation of an effective presentation are: 

  • Know where you are presenting and when.
  • Know who your audience is.
  • Test out the equipment prior to the presentation.
  • Have a back up plan.
  • Face the audience and move around the room during the presentation.
  • Involve the audience as much as possible.
  • Time the presentation ahead of time and monitor the time during the presentation.
  • Do not recite or read the presentation, but rather engage in natural conversation.
    (Feierman, 2003; Kay, 1999; Wareham, 2001)

What are some guidelines regarding the use of text in an effective presentation?

  • Keep it simple. Be concise. Cluttered screens will do a poor job of conveying your message.
  • Follow the "Joy of Six" principle meaning no more than six words in each bullet and no more than six bullets on one screen.
  • Make sure fonts are easy to read from a distance. Sans serif fonts (like Helvetica or Arial) are generally easier to read. Use a 24 point font or greater for Power Point. In addition, make sure everyone is seated so that they can see the presentation.
  • Be consistent. Restrict the number of different fonts and colors you use for the text.
  • Students will assume that a font, size, or style change has some significant meaning.
  • Words in all caps are much harder to read especially from a distance because they have no distinct shape.
  • Use underlines and italics sparingly as they are difficult to read on a screen or overhead.
  • Check your choice of fonts and colors under the conditions that you will use for your presentation. Overhead projectors may appear fuzzy and colors may be distorted.

What are some guidelines regarding the use of color in an effective presentation?

  • Make sure you use color to enhance your message, not confuse it.
  • Do not rely on color alone to convey information. Use color combined with another attribute such as capitals to make information stand out.
  • Do not use more than two or three main colors on one slide. Varying shades of the basic color can be more effective.
  • Use subtle, subdued colors for the background so that it does not dominate or overpower the message. Large blocks of bright color can be tiring for students to look at.

What are some guidelines regarding the use of diagrams and charts in an effective presentation?

  • Use diagrams and clip art to support your message, but keep them simple and uncluttered.
  • Make sure everyone is able to recognize what is being conveyed in the clip art or picture.
  • Use three-dimensional charts rather than two-dimensional where possible because they are more lifelike.
  • Use the appropriate chart type to display the type of data you are presenting. (Ex. Use line graphs to show trends and pie charts to display proportions.)
  • Keep titles in a general location. Use some sort of template to hold ideas together.

What are some guidelines regarding the ideas and content of an effective presentation?

  • Start with an introduction, including an agenda.
  • Make sure you know the overall objective and main points of the presentation. Use one MAJOR idea per slide/page. Remember, people typically remember five key points.
  • Focus attention by revealing one point at a time.
  • Provide handouts whenever appropriate so students can listen instead of taking notes.
  • Don't make slides to read from. Do not duplicate your oral presentation verbatim.
  • Start your presentation with the end in mind. Keep it simple and convey your message in a clear, concise manner. Focus on the content at all times.
  • Make sure the language of your presentation is appropriate for the audience.
  • Make sure to repeat every question, comment or suggestion for those who may not have heard it the first time.

Where can you find more information about effective presentations?

Descriptive Articles

Feierman, A. (2003). The art of communicating effectively.
Kaye, S. (1999). It's showtime! How to give effective
presentations. Supervision, 60(3), 8-11.
Loge, K. (2002). Media Presentation Guidelines. Lecture
for summer course: Internet Presentations. 
Lovely, G. (1997). Whip up a whiz-bang presentation!
Primary Educator, 3(3), 81.
Nicholson, D.W. & Zadra, S.S. (1998). Much ado
about muffins: A practical approach to the use
of video in classroom presentations. International 
Journal of Instructional Media, 25, 229-240.
Wareham, J. (2001). From the podium. Across the
Board, 38(2), 67-69.


University of South Dakota Trio Program

This online tutorial provides clear, concise descriptions of how to choose fonts, backgrounds, and organize your presentations.

Microsoft Office

Katherine Murray, author of more than 40 computer books offers ten tips for creating effective Power Point presentations.

Road Tools

This site provides quick Power Point tips with colorful help screens and suggestions for seating arrangements.