Using PowerPoint


Guidelines for Using PowerPoint in Your Presentations

When requiring students to complement their speech content with PowerPoint slides, it became clear that the students needed some guidelines about PowerPoint presentations. As a result, I’ve created a set of guidelines to help you use PowerPoint effectively.

1. Set aside some time to prepare your PowerPoint slides and to look at the options available to you. You can incorporate different backgrounds, fonts, layouts, graphs, clip arts, transitions between slides and sound effects into you PowerPoint slides. Take time to play with the options until you feel comfortable with them.

2. Get some practice setting up you PowerPoint on the classroom computer. Speak to your professor about access to the classroom for your practice session. Having a PowerPoint presentation and knowing how to use it are two different things. For example, in the past many students put their floppy disks into the Apple Macintosh when they meant to use the IBM/PC. Also, realize that some classrooms are equipped with the ZIP drive and some are not. You need to be familiar with the system to be able to use it effectively.

3. Come a few minutes early the day of your presentation to make sure that all the equipment you need and have reserved ahead of time (cassette players, VCR players, etc) are in good working order. Having the equipment, knowing that it works and knowing HOW it works are three different things. You need to do all three when giving your presentation.

4. It’s a good idea to save your presentation as a “Pack and Go” file to enable the computer to play your presentation even if the server system is down. Also, it’s not a good idea to send your PowerPoint slides to your own e-mail address to retrieve it in the classroom; the system may be slow or it may be down. If there is a problem have a plan to fall back on. I often bring transparencies, as a back-up when giving PowerPoint lectures.

5. Do not include too many slides. Remember the rule: There must be an optimal balance between using it merely as a backdrop on the one hand, and letting the PowerPoint slides overwhelm your entire presentation. I have seen instances where students merely used it as a backdrop, and worse yet, assume that the audience understands it merely because it is there. Refer to it when you use it, but don’t read directly word for word from your overhead. Another related problem is that of using slides as a substitute for verbal transition between ideas. Just because the new slide has a title, don’t just assume that reading the title constitutes a smooth transition into a new idea.

6. You also need to think of not overwhelming the audience with too many visuals, words and sounds. Each slide should contain one main idea, with bullet points, rather than full sentences on the slide. A nice transition between slides helps to increase the look of professionalism, but when it gets overdone with sounds that are irrelevant and noisy, the effect is distracting. You want the slides to enhance, rather than hinder the audience’s comprehension of your main points. To achieve this goal, you may want to limit the number of slides to around five for six for a ten minute speech. Hamilton (1996) suggests this rule of thumb for the maximum number of slides: Length of speech/2 +1=Maximum number.

7. Feel free to incorporate other forms of visual aides too. Just because PowerPoint is required for the class, it doesn’t preempt you from using other visual aids, such as artifacts or the blackboard. Research shows that in educational settings use of different forms of audio visuals enhance retention. Again, think of a balance between using only one form of visual aide and many forms. You don’t want to distract, but you DO want to create visual and sensory interest.

8. In summary, play with, experiment, enjoy PowerPoint and practice giving it using different formats. Every speech is different, so what’s right for one speech, speaker and audience may not be the best for another.

If you have any questions, ask your instructor or contact the Speaking Center at 654-1347.