Basic Guidelines for Presentations

In my research, I explore effective communication. This white paper presents the basic guidelines I have identified to give structure to novice presenters.

Introduction to the basic guidelines for presentations

This common ground helps establish simple procedures and rules to help make effective oral presentations in which you must understand a scenario to attain a goal with a given target within a specified situation. Many presenters replicate informal conversations trying not to change or plan to enhance their overall effectiveness. Others try to replicate what they see done by effective expert presenters without a full appreciation for how that style matches the scenario or the planning and preparation that went into the work before the moment of the performance.

To aid any presenter, it is first necessary to understand that many people identify the right or wrong thing to do when presenting. These can be of use only if you are aware of some basics that lead to self-analysis and the development of effective practices. This analysis begins with your critical reflection on what you see and do when presenting.  For an example visit this video: Don McMillan: Life After Death by PowerPoint.

The general guidelines provided here direct presenters to:

  • Have a message that is supported by what you say and what you show.
  • Have a purpose for each thing you show matched with what and how you are saying it
  • Pace the presentation for the scenario and content so the things you show and say meet the needs of the content, the audience, and the objective
  • Use Images to convey ideas and support orals and text

These overarching concepts work to move presenters to plan a conversation in which they tell a story that serves the needs of the target audience. This works to enhance the overall effectiveness of the presentation to deliver the core or central message in a way that serves the needs of the presenter by aligning the components of the presentation with the needs of the target in the given situation.

Getting started with good practices

Many young presenters digest guidance for presentations such as tip videos and expert web page articles. Those can be useful but a scaffold for understanding how to use them should come first. Some essentials are needed f to understand the larger conception of structuring the work before, during, and after the actual moment of performance. Moving beyond the immediate moment of the performance, most students do some preparation. Eventually, the three phases of production will come into play as we delve into the use of video as a means of effective communication. In the production model of communication using visual support like a slide deck (collection of PowerPoint slides or images) is often a common way to aid in the effectiveness of the delivery of the core message.

Communicating orally in different media

Oral communication and video presentations and interviews are key aspects of the modern communication world. Planning what you will communicate is key to effective delivery, especially when the medium involves online or digital media, for an example visit this video: How to Create an Awesome Slide Presentation (for Keynote or Powerpoint)

Considering the basic structure and type of what you will communicate affects how you structure the package, you create for a specific audience, for an example visit this video: Signposting: Making It Easy for your Audience to Follow Your Speech

General Conception of Presentations and Overall Effectiveness

Moving beyond these general ideas of how to frame and conceive of the production, the next step that novice presenters tend to follow is seeking visuals to insert along with content as text fills the slides. Many people offer tips and ideas for some key things needed in an effective presentation. Below are several videos that provide such basic introductions.

Visuals are a key piece of all communication from your appearance to the items you choose to hold or show as you present. These videos will discuss some essential pieces to begin your reflection on the process.

Effective presentations in Teleconferencing

            A major disruptive innovation that has recently emerged is the need to teleconference. This requires both formal and informal oral presentations To be more effective, it is necessary to plan and prepare the environment as well as the content and delivery.

The sound and video as well as the environment that surrounds you in the given scenario are vital when teleconferencing or presenting via the medium of video. When in a classroom, many things are taken for granted or assumed to be out of the control of the presenter. This is not as true when presenting live or asynchronously. The following items are key best practices and essentials to consider as you plan and prepare for the performance in this type of scenario.

To be more effective you should

  • Avoid reading aloud what is in the text; text reinforces visually what you are saying and should appear as it is spoken. Do not read the slide deck nor use it as a script or crutch.
  • Give less content and text showing more than listing and telling. Avoid filling slides with sentences, phrases, or too many words
  • Use bullets correctly. Bulleted lists are for groups of items connected to a major category. Bullets are not used for emphasis or single items. Avoid multi-level bullets and use as few words as possible in the bullet to capture the key idea. Never have just one orphan bullet.

The 6X6 or 36 rule

A simple set of methods to follow is the 6X6 or 36 guidelines for presentations which provide rules for text included on slides.

There should not be more than 6 lines of bulleted text on any one slide

Bullets should not have more than six words associated with any one bullet

 Block quotes or text items should not be more than thirty-six words

Font size should have headers that are no smaller than 36.

Body text typically should not be smaller than 18-point font and the lines of text should be balanced for a good display. Common font sizes should apply to all slides for consistency.

Be sure to balance the layout so images and text are not misaligned or left orphaned or on an island

Organization of Content

Some common areas of concern for students relate to the flow and structure of oral presentations, often due to lack of planning or consideration of target. There needs to be a structure comprised of visual and oral signposts to help guide the viewer along as you present. This often starts with clear headings and text that include:

  • A clear descriptive title that ties together the key aspects of the entire presentation often followed by an outline or overview
  • Clear descriptive subtitle that ties together the key aspects of the entire presentation in the particular slides that follow and match the opening
  • Clear descriptive examples tie together the key aspects of the entire presentation in the specifics of your idea.
  • A conclusion that connects with the opening and the common message developed throughout

Providing Feedback and engaging the audience.

When providing comments and feedback, it is acceptable to start with a generic positive statement like that was good or you spoke well, however, you must provide specific value or you have added nothing useful.

Dr. Lipuma – Ability to Critique

Some simple rules for giving feedback can assist you. To be effective feedback should focus on:

  • Clear and Specific points
  • Behavior that can be changed – allow room for action and possible improvement
  • Observed facts, not supposed intentions. what you saw/felt, not judgment
  • The most important points
  • Good aspects as well as areas for improvement
  • Giving value to the person and the group not just sharing your preferences, opinions, or way of doing things.

Feedback and comments are as much a conversation and part of presentations as any other aspect. The presenter needs to be prepared to draw out comments from the audience as well as be ready to respond meaningfully to what is asked. Even if the feedback and questions are not phrased effectively, the presenter should try to recast what is said using active listening techniques like effectively repeating the question or comment and then providing answers.  

Further reading

Here is a list of articles I have written related to the topic of “Presentations”: