10 Slide Tips to Enhance your Presentation

Photo by Marcos Luiz on Unsplash

By Barbara Bucklin, PhD and Manny Rodriguez, M.S., BCBA

bSci21 Contributing Writers

This is the fourth and final installment in our presentation skills series. As we mentioned in the previous articles, this series is intended to help behavior analysts increase and grow our public presence to continue making a positive impact on the world.

The first three articles provided tips on preparing to present, designing presentation content to surprise and inspire your audience, and delivering a captivating presentation. This final article will help you wrap up your presentation into concise and meaningful slides.

You can use the series of checklists to prepare, design, and deliver a polished presentation; it’s compiled from Behavior Analysts to the Front! A 15-Step Tutorial on Public Speaking (Friman, 2014); 20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks (Haden, 2014); and Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking (2013).

As we did in in the previous articles, we start with the checklist and then define each item in more detail.

Think About Your Slides Last

  • Build your slides after you’ve developed your presentation; think about your main message, structure its supporting points, practice it and time it—and then start building your slides.
  • The presentation needs to stand on its own; the slides are something you layer over it to enhance the listener experience.

Create a Consistent Look and Feel

  • In a good slide deck, each slide feels like part of the same story; that means using the same or related typography, colors, and imagery across all your slides.
  • To make your slides consistent, create a few slides to hold sample graphic elements and type as templates, then copy what you need from those slides as you go.

Think About Topic Transitions

  • Don’t go too far in the direction of consistency by making each slide look exactly the same. You can create one style for the content slides, and then another style for the transitions between topics.
  • For example, create general slides with a dark background and light text, and transition slides with a light background and dark text.
  • This way they feel like part of the same family, but the presentation has texture and the audience gets a visual cue that you’re moving onto a new topic.

With Text, Less is More

  • Avoid slides with a lot of text, especially if it’s a repeat of what you’re saying out loud.
  • If there are a lot of words on your slide, you’re asking your audience to split their attention between what they’re reading and what they’re hearing.
  • That’s really hard to do, and it compromises the effectiveness of both your slide text and your spoken words.
  • If you can’t avoid having text-heavy slides, try to progressively reveal text (like unveiling bullet points one by one) as you need it.

Use Photos that Enhance Meaning

  • ‘Punchy’ photos in presentations help what you’re saying resonate with your audience without pulling their attention from your spoken words.
  • Look for photos that (1) speak strongly to the concept you’re talking about and (2) aren’t compositionally complex.
  • Your photo could be a metaphor or something more literal, but it should be clear why the audience is looking at it, and why it’s paired with what you’re saying.

Go Easy on Effects and Transitions

  • Go easy on the effects and transitions; they can create confusion.
  • Keynote and PowerPoint come with a lot of effects and transitions; however, most of these don’t do much to enhance the audience experience.
  • At worst, they subtly suggest that the content of your slides is so uninteresting that a page flip or droplet transition will snap the audience out of their lethargy.
  • If you must use them, use the most subtle ones, and keep it consistent.

Direct Attention in Images

  • Use masking or an arrow to direct attention in images.
  • If you want to point out something in a photo, a large arrow can be effective.
  • Reveal individual image components, particularly when you don’t want the audience to see the whole design until you’re finished talking about its elements.

Try Panning Large Images

  • Rather than scaling the image to an illegible size, or cropping it, you can pan it vertically as you describe it.

For Video, Don’t use Auto Play

  • Set the video to click to play; that way you have more predictable control over the video start time.
  • You may want to select a frame to show before starting.

Reproduce Charts and Graphs

  • Dropping an image of a chart into a presentation is fine, but it almost always disrupts the slide’s look, feel, and theme in an unsightly fashion.
  • If the graph data are simple enough (and you have some extra time), you could redraw the graph in the presentation application, which can make your presentation feel consistent and thought through.
  • This way, you have control over colors, typography, and more.

We hope you apply all four of these presentation skill installments the next time you give a professional talk. Please reach out to either of us if you want advice or feedback on your presentation, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


10 Tips on How to Make Slides that Communicate your Idea, from TED’s In-House Expert. Posted by: TED Staff July 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm EDT. Retrieved from: http://blog.ted.com/10-tips-for-better-slide-decks/

Friman, P.F. (2014). Behavior Analysts to the Front! A 15-Step Tutorial on Public Speaking. The Behavior Analyst, 37, 109-118.

Haden, F. (2014). 20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks. Published June 26, 2014. Retrieved on July 8, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.inc.com/ss/jeff-haden/20-public-speaking-tips-best-ted-talks

Rodriguez, M. (2016). Bring ABA to the World Through Public Speaking. Retrieved from: http://www.bsci21.org/how-to-bring-aba-to-the-world-through-public-speaking/

Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking http://www.simswyeth.com/20130424-tips-from-ted-10-commandments-of-public-speaking/. April 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2015.

Barbara Bucklin, PhD is a global learning and performance improvement leader with 20 years of experience who collaborates with her clients to identify performance gaps and recommend solutions that are directly aligned with their core business strategies. She oversees design and development processes for learning (live and virtual), performance-support tools, performance metrics, and a host of innovative blended solutions.

Dr. Bucklin serves as President and is on the Board of Directors for the Organizational Behavior Management Network. She has taught university courses in human performance technology, the psychology of learning, organizational behavior management, and statistical methods. Her research articles have appeared in Performance Improvement Quarterly and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. She presents her research and consulting results at international conventions such as the Association for Talent Development (ATD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), Training Magazine’s Conference and Expo, and the Organizational Behavior Management Network.  You can contact Dr. Bucklin at [email protected]

Manny Rodriguez, M.S., BCBA has worked with many organizations across the globe over the past 15 years.  He is an accomplished practitioner in the field of Behavior Analysis, highly regarded by his customers, and colleagues alike.  He has earned a reputation for his quick grasp of behavioral challenges and how to solve them offering a practical “real-world” approaches.  He has held positions both as an external consultant at the largest behavior based consultancies, Aubrey Daniels International and the Continuous Learning Group, and as a Global Environmental Health and Safety leader within FMC Corporation, an international specialty chemicals company, and today is Vice President of ABA Technologies, Inc.

Manny’s experience spans various industries working with some of the largest organizations in the world such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Kraft Foods, Syncrude, Cigna, Heinz, Canadian National Railway, Duke Power, ADM, Blair, Bell Canada, Stewart Enterprises, and FMC Corporation. Manny has led large scale change efforts, providing one-on-one coaching with executives and senior managers, developing and delivery engaging professional development learning events, and led teams of professionals to achieve significant performance.   His leadership in the science of human behavior has impacted the lives of thousands leaders and employees nationally and internationally.

Manny has worked with organizations across the globe, lending his expertise in behavioral science to make a difference in the workplace.  Manny’s experience spans various industries such as human services, nuclear power, government, oil and gas, transportation, telecommunications, banking, and chemical within the Fortune 1000.  Today, he focuses his time on bringing behavior analysis to executives and leaders through online learning, consulting, and training practitioners.

Through his leadership, Manny has consulted to various clients, launched Operant Leadership, the business consulting service division of ABA Technologies, co-authored with his Operant Leadership colleagues Daniel Sundberg and Shannon Biagi the four volume series OBM Applied! a practical guide to implementing organizational behavior management, and most recently co-authored with Dr. Paul Gavoni the book Quick Wins! Accelerating School Transformation through Science, Engagement, and Leadership.

In addition, Manny volunteers his time as the current Executive Director of the OBM Network, and as a member of the board of directors of the space coast human resource association. You can contact him at [email protected].

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