Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the category “Developing Presentations”

Resources for free graphics

information-1015297_640It is highly advantageous to know how to use graphics in your presentations and reports. Sometimes, building a model is far better at illustrating what you want to say than simply words. To help, here’s some places you can go to get free graphics, and to edit graphics for free:

Picmonkey – Is a really fast, down and dirty graphics editor with clip art and templates, along with photo filters to help. The paid version unlocks more features.

Canva – Is a great way to create cards, brochures, and posters with professional-looking templates to get started quickly.

Blender – Is a free and very powerful open source graphics program that can help you draw graphics, diagrams, etc.

Pixabay – Offers royalty-free graphics that you can easily pop into your presentations. There’s a lot to choose from here, and you’ll notice some of my past blogs use many of the graphics offered from this site. One of my favorite artists is 3DMan, who has a series of figurines that can be fun and very useful.

Freepic – Has some really great looking graphics that you can use in your presentations. The only disadvantage is that many of these come as packages, and will require graphics software (such as Blender) to get them looking how you want them to look.

Also, as I mentioned before, Microsoft SmartArt is a great feature to the Office Suite, and Google Images (choose, under “Tools” –> “Usage Rights” –> Labeled for Reuse).

Happy Presenting!

Presentation Software

There are several different software packages to create your presentation. By far, the most common one is Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint is probably the most well known software, with many templates and options to choose from. A similar Mac version of PowerPoint is Keynote.

In terms of free software, you can use Google Slides, which has the added benefit of being able to share and co-write presentations with collaborators. Although Microsoft PowerPoint includes this feature also, I’ve found it to be far buggier than Slides, which is pretty easy, in my opinion.

Another free and collaborative software tool is Prezi. Unlike PowerPoint, Keynote, and Slides, which are linear (they go from point A to point B), Prezi allows you to present in a more nonlinear fashion. Imagine a bulletin board with all your information, and Prezi allows you to move to, magnify, and visit each part of this board.

Although each software package has many features that you leverage, stick to simple. For example, I’ve found that although you can put sounds and tons of animation features on your presentation, don’t. These features can distract from your message, and in the case of Prezi, you can actually give your viewers motion sickness!!!

Instead, stick to simplicity and your message. Use your software package in a way to focus and emphasize your message. For example, when I put bulletpoints on my slides, I have a very subtle animation, where the bullets phase into the slide as I talk about them. This keeps people focused on the slide right where I want them.



Use color to make your presentations pop

To make your message stand out, focus on high contrast, use color to highlight what you want to say, and minimize the background for clarity. For example, in my proposal presentation, I chose a clean, white background, with black font. Because my committee wanted to see that I had changed a few things, based on their suggestions, I used red to illustrate where I had made changes:


Although it does not show in the picture above, as I was doing my presentation, the bullets appeared in a subtle animation as I spoke about them, thus bringing my audience’s attention to the actual concepts that I wanted to talk about.

Now, the green you see, represents a “leaf” theme that I used throughout my presentation, which goes with this slide, below, to explain my use of constructivist grounded theory:


As you can see, I use color and visual graphics to convey my argument.

When you are considering the construction of your presentation, some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Choose a color scheme that is consistent throughout your slides. As you can see in my example, my color theme makes my story uniform from slide to slide. I use contrast and white space to make the message simple and clear.
  • Avoid elaborate backgrounds, excessive words, or unnecessary animations, sounds, or graphics. Every slide should have a focus on the message you want it to convey. Use graphics to focus on that message.
  • Keep in mind that you may have color blind people in your audience. Things like red, green, and blue may be difficult to see, especially if they are the same shade (and may look grey to someone).

I’m not a fan of the black background in presentations. This is probably biased on my part, but to me, black is rather dark and ominous. Plus, for some people, colors are more difficult to see against the dark.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. The advantage to using a presentation program (I will talk about a few of them in tomorrow’s post) is that you can switch colors and themes rather easily to take advantage of the effect you want.


Using visuals in your presentation

As a rule of thumb, each slide should have no more than 50 words on each, otherwise, you’ll lose your audience because they are doing two things at once: listening to what you are saying, while reading what is on the slide.

Stick to pictures on the slide, while using a script to guide what you say. That way, your visual compliments your words, and add to them, instead of conflicting them (especially when what you say is slightly different from what you’ve written).

Use color, charts, and white space to focus on your message. When your slides have too much clutter, people will not be able to follow along. For example, if you look at the image below:


You just see the red dot. Your message should be the focus, and anything else will distract.

Bullets should be minimal, and you can include key words, short sentences, bold and color to convey meaning and focus the eye.

One advantage to using the Microsoft package is that it includes a SmartArt feature to construct abstract concepts into  graphics that make your information tangible. Here’s an example, for instance, of a slide that I used in my proposal presentation:


I created this slide to illustrate how Thorndberg’s data sensitizing principles could be applied to pre-existing data, and how it fit into my methodology. As you can see, I was able to pack a lot into a diagram, but the funnel helped to illustrate how data are reduced during analysis. The diagram conveyed my concept more clearly than if I had used bullet points or words.

What’s your presentation’s significance?

As you develop your presentation, think about the beginning, middle, and end. With your presentation objectives in mind, the following questions will help connect them to your audience:

  1. Topic: “I am going to present on….”
  2. Question: “Because I want people to know…”
  3. Significance: “…in order for my audience to understand….”

The presentation significance is VERY important, because the audience will always ask, “Why should I care?” …and your presentation needs to include this piece woven throughout your story.


PowerPoint Presentation Objectives

Now that you have a better idea of your audience, focus on your topic:

  • What question do you want to pursue? Why would someone come see your presentation?
  • What objectives do you want to address?
  • What story do you want to share/tell?

Second, how will you tell your topic? There are generally four stands you can make in a presentation:

  • Argument – are you trying to persuade the audience? For example, when I created my proposal defense, the main purpose of my presentation was to argue for why I wanted to do my study. I needed to say what I wanted to do, then provide evidence to persuade my committee that I was capable of doing it.
  • Informational – are you trying to teach the audience something? Is this an instructional topic, where people are coming to learn something from you? If so, what level will you be teaching at? How will you construct your information so that people can follow along?
  • How-To – these presentations are a little bit different than informational presentations, in that you are expecting the audience to be able to mimic what you are doing. Thus, questions to consider: What skills/knowledge will they get out of this presentation? What examples and demonstrations will you do, and how will you do them? What problems may they anticipate, and how do you overcome them?
  • Promotional – are you offering a service or trying to sell something? If so, how useful is your product? How will you effectively tell your audience about this product, and what will they get out of it? What will it cost them, or what is it that you would like to do?

Like stories, all four presentations require a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. The beginning is your hook, to capture your audience’s interest. It presents the “why” part of why your audience is here, and why the information you will provide is valuable.

The body of your presentation provides evidence to back up your why, made clearly and logically. It builds upon the “why” of the intro, and ends with the usefulness of your information, to the “take aways,” or conclusion that leaves your audience with points to remember or discuss.


Knowing your audience

An effective PowerPoint presentation tells a story in a simple, straightforward way with as little words as possible. However, the way you tell this story is heavily dependent on who your audience will be. Think of a typical fairy tale story. Most of them begin with “Once upon a time,” then, depending on the audience, the story takes you through some sort of adventure, followed by a memorable ending or moral to the story. Your presentation starts with a broad focus first (once upon a time), then, as you continue to tell your story, you narrow it down, while keeping your audience’s perspectives at the forefront, until the memorable end, which is your conclusion.

The planning and development of a presentation is an iterative cycle can take several weeks or several hours, depending on how well you know your topic, and how well you know your audience. Each iteration focuses on simplicity while clarifying the message/argument that you want to give.

So first, think about your audience. You want to present your topic in a way where they can:

  • relate to your message/story
  • trust the story that you present
  • respect your expertise

If the presentation is too simple, you will lose their interest and bore them. If the presentation is too complex, they will tune out. Thus, start thinking about ways you can engage your audience with your story. What’s the hook?

To get you started, put yourself in the audience. Then, think about answers to the following questions:

  • What do you look for in a presentation?
  • What do presenters do to make their presentation interesting?
  • Why do you go to presentations?
  • What do presenters do to keep you engaged?




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