How Do I Create Effective Presentations?

The Planning Process | Structure & Organization | Designing Your Presentation | Additional Resources


The Planning Process

As you begin putting your presentation together, consider the following first steps:

  • Determine what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Know your audience.
  • Choose the appropriate medium.
  • Start with a pen and paper.

Image of paper sketch of presentation    

Remember the “Tell ‘Em” rule

This popular rule in writing and speech outlines three steps:

  1. Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em
  2. Tell ‘em
  3. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

In other words, introduce your presentation by outlining its goals (step 1); deliver the content that achieves these goals (step 2); and then summarize what you’ve delivered (step 3).

Structure and Organization: The Power of Storytelling


Designing your Presentation

Simplifying Slides

Each slide should cover a single idea.

An easy way to avoid cluttering your slides is to make sure each one conveys a single concept or point of emphasis. If you’re explaining three possible solutions to a problem, for instance, don’ t crowd them all onto one slide; at the very least, use three. Only your most compelling and crucial points should be highlighted on your slides.

Think of your slides as a backdrop.

Remember, your slides are there to provide visual support and impact to your oral presentation —that’s it. Your audience cannot read a long list of bullet points and listen to what you’re saying at the same time. Instead, give them something interesting and memorable to look at as they listen. This leaves them with visual reminders of your presentation’s main takeaways.

Consider this example from Mary Harrington and Rebecca Carr:

Three example slides, each one progressively simpler and more visual in nature

Harrington, M. & Carr, R. (2010). Twelve tips for creating an effective presentation.

Graphic Design

Beware of visual clutter.
Think about fonts.
Consider color and spacing.
Choose compelling imagery.

Sample slide with strong design qualities

Slide from Garr Reynolds

See some visual design principles in action:


Sample Slides

As mentioned earlier, it can be hard to judge the quality of a slide presentation without the presenter's narration. Nonetheless, this example by presentation guru Garr Reynolds incorporates many of the structure, organization and design tips we've covered so far:

Brain Rules for Presenters from garr

Additional Resources

Explore the following tools to create your presentations:

Prezi allows you to visualize and construct your presentation on a single, customizable canvas. You can then build frames and paths around and through your ideas, allowing users to pan and zoom through a slide-like presentation.


SlideShare is an online community for sharing presentations. A basic account is free, and lets you upload presentations, documents, and videos into a public slideshow. You can embed your SlideShare on your blog or website, or share a link via email.

Refer to the Academic Technology Free Tools page for information about more online tools.


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