Pump Up Your PowerPoint[R] Presentations: Effective Use of Visual Aids Promotes Audience Engagement

By Dusaj, Tresa Kaur | American Nurse Today, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Pump Up Your PowerPoint[R] Presentations: Effective Use of Visual Aids Promotes Audience Engagement


Dusaj, Tresa Kaur, American Nurse Today


AS NURSES, we use our education skills to deliver health messages every day. We teach patients about specific diseases or interventions in clinical settings. We advise colleagues on how to use new technology. And we serve as preceptors to nursing students or novice nurses.

But while one-on-one teaching may come naturally to us, giving a gripping visual presentation may be a challenge. We've all seen PowerPoint[R] presentations. Some are so engaging that time flies from the instant they begin to the moment we exit. But in others, the presenter fails to engage the audience, leaving session objectives unmet--and leaving audience members counting the minutes until the presentation ends.

Using engagement strategies combats boring presentations and keeps the audience attentive. These strategies turn passive audience members into active participants of the interactive discussion. We're moving away from traditional lecture formats where a "talking head" delivers information to deposit into others' brains. Promoting interactivity, encouraging questions, and using visual aids in an interesting way are more effective strategies for delivering content and helping the audience understand it. Similarly, using multiple teaching strategies lends itself to individuals with different learning styles.

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PowerPoint software can transform simple words on a single slide into a captivating, dynamic presentation. This article discusses specific PowerPoint features to consider using for your next presentation.

Keep slide design simple

After you complete the outline for your presentation, you'll need to choose a slide background or design. A simple design is ideal. Busy backgrounds can interfere with the text and images you add to the slide. Use dark-colored text with a light background, or vice versa. Also, use transitions to add a progressive effect when moving from one slide to the next.

Avoid too many animations on any one slide, as this can distract the audience. If you want to use animations, use the same type for all slides. For example, don't have text "fly" in from the bottom of one slide, then from the top on the next slide, then from the left, and so on. Choose one type of animation and stick to it.

Write succinct titles

Titles help readers visualize a road map for the "journey" of your presentation. Keep titles short and concise, using no more than a few words. If you're using graphics, charts, or graphs, your titles should highlight the main focus.

Use transition slides

Usually, transitions to new content are presented orally. But you can also use "title" slides, containing only the title of the next section. Besides signaling the audience that you're moving on to a new topic, these slides remind you to bring closure to the previous topic.

Choose a readable font

Choose a clean font for readability. Font size should be large enough so people at the back of the room can read all the copy on the slide. Font color should be black or another dark color to contrast the light background--or if you've opted for a dark background, use a white font. Avoid yellow, red, and orange fonts because they can be hard to read.

Stick to the 6-by-6 rule

Think back to the last presentation you sat through. Was there too much text on the slides? Did the presenter read the text verbatim rather than let the presentation serve as an outline? To avoid this mistake in your presentations, follow the 6-by-6 rule: On any given slide, use no more than six bullet points and no more than six words per bulleted statement.

State the objectives

To better engage your audience, share your learning goals with them. Specify exactly what they should learn by the end of your presentation. Objectives are statements that set goals. To write objectives, start with an action verb and end with a content statement; for example: "Describe needle lengths for different types of injections. …

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