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BLOG - Illustrating a presentation – some hints and tips

20 Apr 2016

Sometimes we default to thinking a presentation must include slides. But if you’ve ever suffered “death by Power Point”, you’ll know it pays to give careful thought to your use of visuals. Sometimes slides are exactly the right visual aid to support a presentation. And sometimes they are better avoided.

If you are speaking to a large audience, then slides can help provide visual engagement, particularly for those sitting further away from you.

In a small group setting, it is often more engaging to just speak, and allow for questions and interaction along the way. Sometimes using slides can detract from your message. It can lead to everyone sitting in the dark, staring a screen rather than looking at you. In which case, your slides had better be worth looking at!

Slides – Some Dos

Do use slides if you have great visuals or images that enhance your message, or tell a story. And of course, if you have photos or images where the audience might recognise themselves or people they know, you can be sure this will go down well.

Do use slides to help to structure the journey through your presentation and make it easy for the audience to follow. Design your slides with the audience in mind, and ask yourself how the slides will help their comprehension as you talk.

Do stick to key points, supported by interesting and relevant visuals. Avoid tired clip art. There are plenty of sites where you can find free images that you can use in your presentations, without infringing copyright. Try

Do make sure your slides are easy to read – no black text on dark blue background. And use a generous font size, which is easier to do if you’re not trying to write an essay on each slide!

When you display a new slide, do allow the audience a moment or two to read it, before you resume speaking.

And do look at the audience when you speak, not at the screen. It’s easy to fall into the trap of turning round and talking to the slide, with your back to the audience.

Slides – some don’ts

Don’t fill your slides with a dense wodge of text. We can’t listen and read effectively at the same time and there is ample evidence that wordy slides lead to a reduction in understanding and retention of information.

Don’t use slides just to remind you of what you are going to say, it’s much better to prepare some prompt cards, or use the notes function in the software.

Don’t forget that technology can let you down. Make sure you have a contingency plan, such as a printed version of your notes, so that you can still give the talk without the tech.

Other visuals

Don’t forget low-tech visual aids. I have a training background and do like a colourful flipchart when giving talks to small groups. And if you’re asked a question, it can be handy to have a flipchart, if you are happy to produce simple visuals on the fly.

And finally, don’t forget that visuals can be objects too. A well-chosen prop can be a very memorable addition to your talk.

About Felicity Dwyer

Felicity runs Stepping Up, which empowers managers and leaders through coaching and accredited training prgrammes. Visit

Felicity has written a free guide to Presenting with Confidence, for your copy please email