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

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.

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.

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.

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:


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?


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!

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

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