Microsoft PowerPoint presentations are the cornerstone for many lectures and conferences. After sitting through countless PowerPoints over the years, I noted how some lecturers utilized certain techniques to make their presentations more engaging and effective. As an attending, I’m now utilizing some of these basic tips to assemble presentations about complex pathophysiology, evidence-based practice, and other topics to audiences consisting of trainees of varying levels.

Aesthetics matter with PowerPoint presentations. In general, using pictures and diagrams to replace copious amounts of text is a good move. I often incorporate SmartArt to illustrate lists, processes, and hierarchies along with Design Ideas (requires an Office 365 subscription that most academic institutions provide). Next, pay attention to font-face and text size/color. For example, don’t use small, blue block characters on a red background. Eye sores like this are a sure way to have your audience lose interest. Don’t get overly zealous with your creativity – stick to using simple design elements, transitions, headings, and a font that everyone can read! When in doubt, ask a colleague what they think about your design, spelling, grammar, etc.

Do not read your slides verbatim! They are a reference for you and your audience. By adhering to “as few words as possible” on each slide, you’ll also avoid this temptation. Instead of reinforcing your slides, let your slides reinforce your lecture! One must know his or her audience and tailor their presentation in a manner that everyone will understand. Speak to the audience… relate to them… show them why your topic is important, how it relates to other subjects, and how this understanding has helped you. Humor (I use a tasteful selection of memes) is a great technique to capture your audience’s attention early on before delving into the meat of your topic.

As far as technical issues, always have your presentation in more than one place: cloud storage, USB flash drive, email, etc. Furthermore, account for variations in your presentation that may occur due to different software (Windows versus Mac, different versions of PowerPoint, etc.) Do a dry run of your presentation if possible!

Finally, provide additional time for questions and your contact information to receive feedback, inquiries, and even other opportunities for speaking.

Drop me a comment with techniques you use for PowerPoint presentations!

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