When using PowerPoint or other presentation software for a technical presentation, your primary concerns should be:
- How technical should this presentation be?
- Can I make this information clear and concise?
A technical presentation, in my view, is the most difficult type of presentation to make. Your audience may include highly skilled individuals as well as those who are not as familiar with the concepts or terminology. You will need to address both learning styles. Audience analysis is an important skill in itself and should be one of the first items on your presentation checklist.
Tips for Designing Technical Presentations
- The DOs
- Keep the fonts consistent in both style and size throughout the whole presentation.
- Use common fonts that are available on every computer, such as Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri. This way, there will not be any surprises if the computer used for the presentation does not have the unusual font you chose installed, and therefore substitutes another font.
- Include relevant photos and graphics such as simple charts or diagrams. Consider whether the audience can understand the information presented or if you need to simplify the chart / diagram for clarity.
- Make sure that graphics are of good quality so the information is easily deciphered at the back of the room.
- Make labels on charts large enough to be read at a distance.
- Use heightened contrast on your slides. Consider creating the same presentation in two formats -- one presentation with dark text on a light background, and a second, duplicate presentation using light text on a dark background. This way, you are ready for either a very dark room or very light room to present in and can choose the suitable presentation accordingly.
- Keep the number of slides to a minimum. Present only what is necessary and don't overwhelm the audience with too much information. Technical information is hard enough to digest.
- Allow time for a question period at the end of your presentation
- Know everything about your topic so that you are prepared for any question that arises, even if the question was not covered in the material you presented.
- Have detailed handouts ready to give out after the presentation. This allows for the audience to later reflect on the presentation and the information is ready at hand for any necessary follow-up.
- The DON'Ts
- Don't confuse the audience with disorganized slides so that the purpose of the presentation is not crystal clear.
- Don't overwhelm your audience with busy slides. Think of that old cliché -- "less is more".
- Don't use small images or small text on your slides. Think about those people at the back of the room.
- Don't use script type fonts. They are notoriously difficult to read at the best of times, let alone on a screen.
- Don't use more than three or four related points on each slide.
- Don't use a fancy background. It may be pretty or even on topic, but the text will be difficult to read. Keep to a subtle backdrop for the information.
- Don't add pictures for the sake of decoration. Make sure there is a point to be made and that information is obvious to the viewer.
- Don't use sounds or animations unless they are to emphasize a point. Even then, it is risky as they can detract from the main focus of the presentation.
- Don't use acronyms unless all members of the audience are familiar with them.
- Don't include more than four or five items on a chart. Even though Excel charts can be made to show great detail, a slide show is not the place for this information. Stick to important facts only.