Step 4: Communicate in an Oral Presentation With Slides

Your goal is to create an oral presentation accompanied by an electronic slide show that communicates your thesis and supporting points.

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“If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won't make them relevant.”
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~ Edward Tuft, Professor Emeritus, Yale University
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About this step

As your digital natives embark on this step, help them remember that bells and whistles are just noise if they interfere with the message that they wish to communicate. Encourage their creativity while keeping the goal—effectively communicating the results of their research--and the timeline of the project, in mind.

  • Will students use various versions of PowerPoint™ or other presentation software? Ensure that they understand compatibility issues if they work at home and school.
  • How will electronic formats be displayed and turned in?

Student sees:

About this step

In General:

Remember that in an oral presentation you are the star!

  • The information in your slides should highlight or illustrate your narration, not steal the show.
  • Pick one slide background and use it throughout your entire presentation.
  • Keep text on slides to a minimum. Six words to a line and six lines to a slide are good guidelines. Avoid long sentences.
  • Use large fonts that can be easily read from the back of the room. Do not use light colors for your text.
  • Choose visuals that enhance your message.
  • Minimize or avoid animated texts, sounds, and fancy transitions. Special effects should not distract from your message.

Teacher Guide

The bells and whistles of presentation software make communicating in this format fun and motivating for students. The challenge for the teacher, however, is to keep the student focused on the message. The student speaker is the star and the conclusions they have drawn, the drama. Remind students that their slides are intended to enhance, not be, their presentation. Remember that the bulleted list may not be the best way to present information. Some presentation experts suggest using a statement (top of the slide, not more than two lines), with illustrations (in the body) to make assertions.

Less is more will be your mantra when guiding students through creation of slide presentations.

Consider visiting with your art teacher as you plan instruction. Just a little knowledge of complementary colors and the effect of different artistic elements could be useful. At least mention that there is a connection between a multimedia program such as PowerPoint and graphic arts.

There are many resources available for learning to use PowerPoint technically, but there are also many resources to guide users to creating effective messages. Several popular resources used in the business market are:

Student sees:

Create storyboard

Your first step is to sketch your slides and outline your speech, focusing on your main argument and supporting points. Grab a pencil and scrap paper and draw your slides. Use simple sketches. Or, use the Storyboard template provided below.

  • Note the text the slide will display and consider what you will say when the slide is on the screen. If you use a bulleted list, ensure that each phrase is in the same grammatical structure.
  • Sketch visuals.
  • You do not need text on every screen. As you explain a point, you may have only a photo or graph on the slide. The slides are intended to illustrate your presentation, not be the presentation.
  • In the introductory slides, you should have a "hook" to grab the audience attention.
  • Middle slides should explain your main points.
  • Final slides should summarize your ideas.


This is an essential step in creating an effective presentation. Sketches do not need to be beautiful, but all intended elements (layout, graphics, and text) should be included. The storyboard is the blueprint for the presentation. Just as you would not build a house without a plan, do not let students create presentations without a storyboard. Attention to this important creative planning step will reduce the time needed in the lab to complete the project.

Student sees:

Create visuals

  • Download and assemble photos, graphics, audio, and video.
  • Store all items related to your slide presentation in a central folder.
  • Remember that music and images that you did not create are subject to copyright rules. Obtain permission from the copyright holder or use resources from the public domain.


Less is more—the purpose of charts, graphs and images is to enhance or illustrate the message.

  • Remind students about copyright guidelines for ideas, images, and music. Under the "Fair Use" provisions of the copyright law, students can use parts of creative works for educational purposes. Slide shows that use copyrighted works without permission may be used only within the classroom for direct instruction. If your goal is to have the students work displayed on the web or entered into any contest, ensure that all graphics, music, and video are used by permission or in the public domain.
  • Contact the publisher or artist to obtain permission to use.
  • Material taken from the work of others can be cited on the slide. Ensure that students include in their speaker notes the source of information so that they can respond appropriately if asked.
  • A slide that lists the resources used should be included at the end of the presentation.

Student sees:

Create slides

With your storyboard as a guide, create your slides using PowerPoint™ or another similar application.

  • Set up master slide with text style and backgrounds. Use common fonts such as Times or Arial so that you can play your show on most computers.
  • Insert the text. Check spelling and grammar.
  • Insert visuals. Graphic elements should face inward. (For example, people in a photograph should be looking into the center of the slide.)
  • Ensure that the colors, font styles, special effects and transitions enhance your message. They should not distract your audience.
  • Before you finalize your slides, ask a friend to give you feedback on your organization and general presentation of information.

Don't forget to give credit for ideas or information borrowed from others on individual slides and to include a slide listing your resources used.

For help learning slide presentation software:


Presentation software has an amazing number of features. Your students will bring a wide variety of experience. For those who do not have familiarity with this tool, a quick overview is a good idea. Students can also coach each other.

For assistance using presentation software, see the links in the Technical Considerations section near the beginning of this step.

Student sees:


As with any speech, practice is essential. As you play your slides, imagine exactly what you will say as each slide is on the screen. Make corrections to the slides and your speech notes. Practice giving your speech and running your slide show with a friend as an audience. Practice your speech without the slide show. Is your message still there?


  • Practice is essential. Students do not want to succumb to stage fright and sabotage their presentation. Some will be quite nervous—familiarity with their content and the technology will assist them.
  • Discuss with them the importance of finding someone to practice in front of.
  • Remind them NOT to read their presentation. Try to set up the presentation station so that the student can see the screen and not turn away from the audience when speaking.

Student sees:


Arrange your equipment and a time for your speech. Remember to schedule the equipment you need: a computer, projector and screen. Remember to set up and test the speakers if your show includes audio. Don't assume that your technology will work. It is wise to have a back-up plan. Check and check again.

Good luck with your presentation!


Technology disasters can be avoided by planning ahead.

  • How will presentations be transferred to the teacher computer?
  • What equipment is needed for the presentation? (projector, speakers, etc.)
  • Does the school technology allow for access and presentation of all elements of the presentation? These questions should not be answered the day of the presentation.

Technical Considerations… show / hide

Related Standards show / hide

Schedule | Question | Gather | Conclude | Communicate: Essay - Electronic Slides - Video | Evaluate | Start Over | Printer iconPrinter-friendly view

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