Advice concerning PowerPoint presentations

[NB: Preliminary – More to come!]

This page is part of the general set of dissertation support resources

General advice

This assignment is structured as a PowerPoint presentation for a reason. In your professional life you’ll be called on to make many different presentations, and learning how to sum up a course in a nutshell (or several nutshells) is a valuable skill. PowerPoint is simply the common medium most used today. It isn’t the best for all occasions, as this attempt shows. However, it is at present unavoidable.

I won’t bore you with a lot of design specifics; there are lots of helps available. Please do remember the most basic things – keep your slides simple, don’t use art or graphics unless it really advances the presentation or is necessary to it; don’t use copyrighted images that you find on websites without crediting the source; center your slides; etc.

The assignment allows you to use both the slides themselves and the Notes feature. The slides and Notes serve distinctly different functions. Part of the trick of a good presentation is to have an appropriate balance between what you have on your slide and what you have in your notes. You don’t want too much on your slide, because that’s simply takes up space and requires the audience to do more reading than they need to; on the other hand, it’s a good idea to have at least some detail to give them an idea about what you consider to be the highlights of what you’re going to be saying. When you’re covering a series of specific topics as in this presentation, it sometimes helps to use one slide listing sub-topics and a second following slide listing issues that cut across the topics.

One way to approach this is to think of your slide as the notes you would hope that the audience would be taking if they were taking notes. Following this logic, it’s generally a good idea to start by developing the titles of each slide you want to use; this is pretty much analogous to creating the first level of an outline. If you were doing a presentation as though you were doing an outline, you’d then go on to create second-level headings that would be the main bullet points on that slide. However, I usually recommend (particularly to those who are not too familiar with PowerPoint) creating your Notes as the next step (you might want to use a separate outline for this, of course.) Your Notes are your talking points on which you elaborate on the points on the slides; you don’t expect them to write down everything you say, memorable though it might be, but it makes for a better presentation than trying to read everything off your slides (which far too many people do.)

Effective correspondence between what you have on your slide and what you are actually saying is absolutely critical to a good presentation. Once you have your notes clearly outlined and you pretty much know what you want to say, then you can go back and create your bullet points as an effective summary of your notes. Creating bullet points before notes sometimes leads to divergence between them, since you may think of other things to say while preparing notes.

I hope this helps. It’s really not all that complicated and as an assignment it’s a very useful summative assessment of what you’ve learned – just so long as you don’t  get too stuck in the details. Good luck!