Learn to Teach: Four Presentation Tips for Educators

We’re excited to have our first guest post from Crystal Bloom, an MBA with over 20 years of experience in the communication field. She is a consultant, public speaker and teacher. Her background includes being a published author of over 20 books. She writes for DegreeJungle.com a resource for college students.

In most cases, a presenter measures his or her success in the moment: draw a large crowd and keep that crowd engaged for the length of the presentation. However, educators face the unique challenge of having to make sure their students recall and understand their content long after their presentation has ended. Here are four tips to make your educational presentations more effective.

Tip #1 – Pick a Format: Instructive vs. Demonstrative

The first thing you need to do for a presentation in an educational environment is determine which type you will do. Knowing this will improve your presentation by keeping you focused. Will your presentation be mainly informational or instructive? Or, will it be a demonstration where you show your students first hand?

The Instructive Presentation

An instructive presentation shows visuals while describing how something is done. The key to your success is providing the necessary information. Think of your college professor using a PowerPoint presentation that describes a particular concept, workflow, or development process. The professor uses slides to provide a picture that reinforces the concept that the professor is describing verbally.

  • Use Visual Aids. Verbal information is backed up by any number of visual props such as pie charts, graphs, posters, photographs, cutouts and models.
  • Refine Your Talking Points. Talking is the foundation of an illustrative presentation.
  • Grab The Audience’s Attention. When using visual cues, such as PowerPoint, make sure to customize the templates for your particular needs. Improve your presentation by using dynamic graphics, fonts, charts, and diagrams to keep your audience’s attention.

The Demonstrative Presentation

While an instructive presentation focuses on telling, a demonstrative presentation focuses on doing. During a demonstrative presentation, you will actually perform the task you want your students to learn, and, while performing that task, you will describe the process to your students. A strong demonstrative presentation will result in a final product.

The best example of demonstrative presentations are cooking shows which teach the viewer a recipe by completing that recipe rather than simply describing it. These types of presentations can be powerful learning tools, but need to be carefully crafted to make sure the process being taught is clear.

Tip #2 – Present Simply and Clearly

No matter which type of presentation you decide upon doing, its success will depend upon you using good speaking abilities and skills. To improve your presentation skills, you must speak in a well-modulated tone that makes it easy to listen to you. Speak clearly at a pace that others understand. Speaking too quickly or slowly can play havoc on your success.

  • Do not use slang or text wording during your presentation. This can cause confusion.
  • Even though your students may understand industry-specific terminology, avoid using it. Speak in easy-to-understand terms so the majority of your audience comprehends what you are talking about.
  • Good speaking involves using good posture to increase your breathing capabilities. Stand tall and walk comfortably.

Tip #3 – Provide a Clear Agenda

Good presentations require ample preparation and organization. Take the time to develop an outline that lists the important points and steps you will be talking about in chronological order. Stick to this outline to improve your presentation skills. Do not confuse your students by jumping back and forth from subject to subject.

  • If time permits, have a question and answer session. An interactive presentation sparks interest and retention rates.

Tip #4 – Fine Tune Your Environment

When doing presentations in an educational environment, remember that your presentation room environment plays a key role in being successful. Many presenters forget this fact. Make certain your speaking volume is adjusted to your room size. There is nothing worse than being too loud or too soft. A poorly tuned environment cannot only ruin the current lesson, it can dissuade students from actively participating in future lectures.

Doing a presentation in an educational environment can be fun, rewarding and fulfilling to all involved. Take the time to do it properly for your success.

Presentation Resources for Educators

Posted in Presentation Design | Leave a comment

Slidevana for PowerPoint: Even Smarter than “SmartArt”

It’s come to our attention that some of you use PowerPoint! While Keynote will always have a special place in our hearts, we know that most presenters rely on PowerPoint to author and share their presentations. We also know that PowerPoint, while very powerful (good name, eh?), can sometimes be tricky to get right.

So we’ve slaved away for the last several months getting Slidevana for PowerPoint absolutely right, and we think you’ll like the result.

Over 150 Handcrafted Slide Layouts

Slidevana for PowerPoint contains over 150 handcrafted slides that provide a complete visual vocabulary that you can use to communicate your message. Slidevana for PowerPoint includes basic layouts, such as lists, tables, and charts, and more advanced layouts like cycles, funnels, pyramids, and common business frameworks. Authoring a deck is as easy as copying the perfect slide and adding your content. No more mussing around with SmartArt!

Take a Tour of SlidevanaTake a Tour of Slidevana

Build Better Presentations—Faster

Author and serial entrepreneur Rajesh Setty uses Slidevana to enhance his message and save time in the process:

“Slidevana has many things I like. One of them is lots of templates with a very clean interface. I’m currently developing a slide-based video for my upcoming book. In the past, this would have taken over a month of my time or cost me a lot of money to outsource. With Slidevana, I developed the high-quality presentation in less than a week.”

Minimal Design, Maximum Flexibility

Other presentation templates tend to be over-designed with limited slide layouts, and they often fail to provide the tools business professionals need. Slidevana for PowerPoint features a clean, minimal design that highlights a presenter’s insights. It is available in two color schemes: Slidevana Dark is designed to deliver maximum visual impact for audiences of any size, and Slidevana Light is perfect for presentations that need to be both projected and printed.

Tailor Slidevana to Meet Your Specific Needs

Slidevana for PowerPoint is designed to make full use of PowerPoint’s theme engine. You can customize Slidevana with your own logo, fonts, graphics, and color palette. You can even add entirely new slides using Slidevana’s flexible Slide Layout system.

Full Support for Cross-Platform Authoring and Delivery

We’ve put together three different templates: a Mac only version that uses Mac specific fonts and is a nearly pixel perfect match with Slidevana for Keynote, a Windows only version that uses Windows specific fonts that simulate the look of Slidevana for Keynote, and a Universal version that uses fonts common to both platforms and is perfect for cross platform sharing. You can even switch back and fourth between the versions with a few clicks.

100% Money Back Guarantee

Slidevana for PowerPoint comes with a 100% money back guarantee. We think Slidevana will change how you do presentations for good, but the best way to see what Slidevana can do for you is to give it a whirl. Try it risk free and if you aren’t 100% satisfied, just let us know.

Free Lifetime Updates

We know from personal experience that authoring a great presentation can be a stressful experience. The last thing we wanted was for customers to worry about whether they had the right slides or to feel nickel and dimed right in the middle of building an important deck. Slidevana’s one-time purchase price includes a) both Slidevana Dark and Slidevana Light and b) every single slide layout available now or in the future. We even provide a 24×7 download system so users can easily get the latest version at the office, at home, or on the road.

Pricing and Availability

For a limited time, Slidevana for PowerPoint is available for $69.00 (USD), 50% off the base price of $139.00. The toolkit includes both color schemes, Slidevana Light and Slidevana Dark. A bundle of both Slidevana for Keynote and Slidevana for PowerPoint is available for $99.00. Existing Slidevana for Keynote customers can upgrade to Slidevana for PowerPoint and Keynote for just $20 until April 27th, and $30 thereafter.

Posted in PowerPoint, Presentation Design, Slidevana | Leave a comment

Slidevana for Keynote giveaway on Cult of Mac!

Cult of Mac is giving away four copies of Slidevana for Keynote. Visit their giveaway page for instructions on how to enter. The contest ends on March 28th at 11:59 PM PST, so hurry!

You’ve been putting together presentations, but they’re just not “wowing” you — or your audience. Slidevana (which works with Keynote for Mac, iPad, and iPhone) will give you that edge. And Cult of Mac Deals is going to give away 4 copies of this stellar slide deck creator!

That’s right — Cult of Mac Deals is giving away 4 copies of Slidevana to our readers. Slidevana allows you to spend less time making the slides for your presentation so that you can spend more time on what you should be spending it on: Working on conveying your message. You can learn all about Slidevana by checking out our latest post on the app.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Two Most Important Questions in Presentation Design

Just a few short weeks into my first “real” job, I got the worst presentation advice I’ve ever gotten. Many of us have heard this familiar adage:

Never more than 5 bullet points, never more than 5 words per bullet point.

Now that bullet points have become somewhat passé, the more modern take on this old dictum is the “photo slide”: a full-frame photo coupled with a single stat or quote usually pared down to a caveman-like dearth of syllables. This minimal approach can be great for some types of presentations, but falls short on many occasions: its just not possible to go into a board meeting with nothing but pretty pictures and pithy quotes.

A far more useful rule is this advice from Albert Einstein:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.

Extreme brevity can be just as harmful to a slide as extreme verbosity, and the right balance varies quite a bit by the purpose of your presentation.

Before crafting a presentation, you should sit down and ask yourself two important questions:

How dense does the information in my presentation need to be to completely convey my message?

An Inconvenient Truth vs. The iPad Keynote

The easiest way to think about information density is by example. A great example of a high information density presentation is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. In contrast, Steve Jobs’ famous product launches, like the iPhone and iPad keynotes, are great examples of low information density presentations.

The difference in these two cases is not the richness or effectiveness of the presentation, but rather how much data needs to be conveyed in order for the audience to believe and act on the message.

Appealing to Reason vs. Appealing to Emotion

Ultimately, information density is often determined by how you want your audience to process your message. If you want to appeal to your audience’s sense of reason, then you’ll likely need to walk your audience through the facts in the same way that Al Gore guided his audience through the scientific rationale that frames the global warming crisis. On the other hand, if you want to appeal to your audience’s sense of emotion, then you need to create an emotional experience for your audience and too much data can detract from that.

NOTE: The most successful presentations appeal to both reason and emotion, as both Al Gore and Steve Jobs have done, but it is useful to pick a primary trait before crafting your presentation.

How large is my audience?

The size of your audience will effect everything from the visibility of your slides to the impact of your body language. In practice, I’ve found that the big inflection point in audience size is around 10 people.

The vast majority of presentations are made to small audiences: groups of ten people or less. Given the frequency and informality of these types of presentations, it’s tempting to put less time into preparation than for a more formal presentation to a larger audience. However, presentations to small groups give you the opportunity and responsibility to engage your audience as active participants. It’s essential that you be prepared to field questions, handle interruptions, guide the discussion, and walk the audience through complex topics.

Once an audience grows beyond ten people, presentations tend to take on a more formal quality. From a purely physical standpoint, some members of the audience will be further away from you, and from a conversational standpoint, there will be more of a one-way flow of information. As a result, you’ll need to be extra careful to ensure that your presentation materials are clear, legible, and complementary to your talking points.

Designing Presentation Materials

As you consider the size of your audience and the density of your content, use the following framework to help determine the optimal format for your presentation materials:

Choosing your format

When to Skip the Slides

If your audience is small (less than 10 people) and your message doesn’t require any dense, structured information, then you should consider skipping the slides altogether. Slides add an air of formality to your presentation and they can inhibit feedback. For most informal business meetings, such as brainstorms and status updates, you’ll have a more intimate and more compelling conversation with your audience by forgoing the slides. If you need to present some of your message visually, opt for a whiteboard instead of slides.

Slides as Visual Aids

Inexperienced presenters tend to treats their slides as a teleprompter. As a result, there is a mountain of presentation advice urging presenters to “not read from the slides”, “use larger fonts”, and “cut out unnecessary words”.

This advice assumes a very real design trade-off that tends to get glossed over: for large audiences, properly designed slides are visual aids, not standalone documents. It’s a recipe for failure to try to project a single deck in front of an audience of 50 people while also designing it to have sufficient content to standalone.

If you are presenting to a large audience, then fully embrace the idea of slides as visual aids that simply can’t survive without you. If you do that, you’ll have a much easier time designing effective slides.

When to Use Handouts

If you are presenting a complex topic to a large audience, then you may need to provide materials that can exist outside the delivery of your presentation. These materials might be provided as a takeaway for the audience or as an online resource for people that couldn’t attend the presentation.

Avoid, at all costs, the temptation to have your presentation slides serve double duty. Instead, develop a handout that has sufficient content to fully convey your message. My preference is to design, from scratch, a document that combines clear, brief prose with the charts, diagrams, and other visual aids you’ve already developed for your presentation. In a pinch, it is possible to create a useful handout by annotating your slide deck.

Standalone Slides: Less Evil Than You Think

Is there ever a case where a single set of slides can serve as both visual aids for a live presentation and as a standalone document? Many presentation gurus discourage this because it comes with a set of challenges that often lead to poor results. But, in practice, slide decks are an ingrained part of business culture and there are cases where it makes sense for slides to serve double duty.

Writing good standalone slides is a topic of another post, but I’ll leave you with a few guidelines:

  • If you’re presenting to more than 10 people, you’re out of luck. Standalone slides require denser content than visual aid slides which means smaller fonts and more fine details. These won’t project well to a larger audience so you’ll need to create visual aid slides coupled with a standalone handout.
  • If you are presenting to a small audience, then have no fear. If you carefully balance the needs of your materials, it is possible to create a good deck that projects well and can be used standalone.
  • Talk like a copywriter, not a cave man when writing standalone slides. Text needs to be brief, but it also needs to be understandable. Reduce word count with clear language, not by simply deleting all the prepositions.
  • As always, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use charts and diagrams to communicate complex ideas in a way that is easier to consume than raw text.
  • If a slide is getting too dense, thats a sign that you need to break you’re idea across multiple slides.

In the right circumstances and with good forethought, you can create standalone slides that enhance your message during your live presentation and capture your message when viewed by themselves.

Posted in Presentation Design | Leave a comment

TUAW reviews Slidevana!

This morning TUAW posted a review of Slidevana. The article, Slidevana provides pro design templates for Keynote, describes Slidevana as “smart collection of slide design that goes way beyond any of Keynote’s built-in templates”. The article also describes Slidevana’s overall design:

From tables to bullet lists to key point images, Slidevana offers a unified design that easily translates into high quality presentations. It’s like a Keynote version of those graphic design and color harmony cookbooks you can purchase at art school bookstores. But instead of general graphic layout, Slidevana focuses on the most common presentation challenges.

Posted in Keynote, Slidevana | Leave a comment

Welcome to Slidevana

Welcome to Slidevana, the ultimate presentation toolkit. Although we’re launching Slidevana today, its been a long time in the making. In fact, its taken years of building dozens of presentations to create Slidevana. Let me explain.

You see, I’m that guy. Every office/team/department has one. You know, the guy that gets stuck with doing all decks because he likes it and is sort of good at it. Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’re that person too.

I cut my teeth learning how to present to executives at Microsoft. I needed to learn how to present bullet proof business cases, backed by rigorous analysis. Pulling up the perfect slide in response to a tough question is a sure way to inspire your audience.

Then, I did my MBA and learned how to sling slides at one of the top three management consulting firms. Fortune 500 companies pay McKinsey, BCG, and Bain millions of dollars to analyze their businesses, and all that thinking gets rendered down into a slide deck at the end of an engagement. A million dollar slide deck better be crisp and convincing.

Since then, I’ve helped build and lead several VC-backed startups. There’s always a presentation that needs to get done, whether its for a board meeting, sales call, conference, VC pitch, or internal review. Decks need to get done fast and they need to tell a great story.

And, like I said, I’m usually the guy crafting that story and the deck to go along with it. That means I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over PowerPoint and Keynote.

It turns out that when people create a presentation, they usually spend less than half their time honing the message. The bulk of time is spent pushing pixels in a slide program. It also turns out that people are making the same slides over and over again. There’s a pretty finite set of slide layouts that account for the majority of content in business presentations.

That is why I created Slidevana. I’ve bundled all of these layouts together into a comprehensive toolkit that will enable you to make better presentations in less time. We’re excited to launch the first version for iWork Keynote ’09 for Mac and Keynote for iOS. With Slidevana, you can build presentations by copying/pasting from over 130 different slide layouts. This usually cuts presentation prep time in half and makes it possible to author useable business presentations on your iPad or your iPhone. You can even use Siri to dictate your way to the perfect slide deck.

You can check out more at Slidevana.com.

Posted in Keynote, PowerPoint, Slidevana | 4 Comments