Learning Objectives

  • Describe components of an effective presentation


In college and beyond, you’ll find that you often need to present information from your research or other writing activities in the form of a presentation. A presentation gives your audience a quick overview of your work and provides visual support for your ideas and information.

Presentations are common in all levels of college courses because your professors know presentations are so critical to demonstrating and sharing your learning. The most common presentation assignments are PowerPoint assignments, but you may also use other programs such as Google Slides or Prezi.

Preparing for a Presentation

Just as different writing assignments have unique expectations from you as a student, presentations will also vary depending on the assignment. Carefully read the assignment and directions before you try to create an outline for your presentation. For example, you may be asked to give an argumentative presentation, and that will follow a similar structure as an argumentative essay. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Remember to present your thesis statement or main idea clearly.
  • Provide the highlights of your evidence from your essay (if you are building from an essay) or simply focus on the key points of evidence from your research. Don’t try to cover everything!
  • You may be asked to address the opposition. How you do this will depend upon your goals and the type of argument you are making.
  • Use images relevant to your points as evidence. Images are powerful and are important pieces of an effective presentation. Think about how you can use images to amplify your thinking!
  • And always cite your sources!

Watch It

The sample video below was created using Prezi by a student in a beginning writing class. She took an essay she had written on issues in the clothing industry found here and developed a Prezi to share with a broader audience. Click below to see how she developed an argumentative presentation for her writing class.

Note: This is still a very text-heavy and image-light presentation. Notice how the slides that combine text and image are more powerful in conveying information and the student’s broader perspective on her topic. As you watch the presentation, consider moments where some of the text could have been replaced by an image. Or, think about moments where she could have replaced much of her text altogether with just an image, and then presented the text orally while her audience was viewing the image. Remember, it’s much easier for a viewer to see and think about an image than it is for a viewer to try to read all the text on your slides.

You can view the transcript for “Cheap Thrills – An Argumentative Presentation” here (opens in new window).

Use this Prezi YouTube channel for tutorials and tips for creating powerful Prezi Presentations.

Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoint presentations are quite common in both academic and professional settings, and, because they are such an important part of how you’ll likely present your ideas and information to an audience, it’s helpful to have some basic information on how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation.

The basic purpose of a PowerPoint presentation is to give you a way to present key ideas to an audience with visual support. Your PowerPoint presentation shouldn’t be full of text. It is meant to provide you with speaking points, and detailed notes should be kept from your audience. You want to keep your slides clear, clean, short, focused, and you want to keep your audience from using the expression that we sometimes hear in reference to long, boring PowerPoint presentations, “death by PowerPoint.”

TIPS: Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating an effective PowerPoint presentation:

  1. Remember to avoid too much text. You should keep your text brief and include talking points only. Detailed notes can be inserted into the notes section of PowerPoint (or you can use some other form of notes as you present), but only you should see those notes, unless a professor asks to see your notes to evaluate your PowerPoint as an assignment.
  2. Be consistent and clear with your font choices. Helvetica is a nice font for presentations. Make sure your font is large enough that an audience in a room would be able to see your text, even if audience members are sitting in the back of the room.
  3. Be careful with your color choices for text and background. You want to make sure your audience can read your text easily. Black on white text is easiest to read but is also boring for a presentation. Still, when you add color, just be sure you are adding color that works and doesn’t distract.
  4. Add images. Text on slides for every slide is boring. Add appropriate images to your slides. Relevant charts and graphs are excellent, as are pictures that will connect to your content. Think about moments where an image can more easily convey information or a message. A powerful image on a slide with no accompanying text can be a powerful way to capture your audience’s attention.
  5. Make sure your main points are clear. Remember to connect your ideas well and provide background information and transitions when necessary.
  6. Keep your audience in mind. Your audience will affect the overall tone and appearance of your presentation. Sometimes, humor can be appropriate. Other times, a more serious tone may be necessary. Just as you evaluate your situation any time you write a paper, you should evaluate your situation for creating a PowerPoint presentation.

Watch It

Watch this video to review some important tips for giving effective presentations.

You can view the transcript for “How to Give an Awesome (PowerPoint) Presentation (Whiteboard Animation Explainer Video) here (opens in new window).

Try It

Finally, don’t forget the key to success at everything: practice, practice, practice. Don’t spend all your time preparing your slides and forget to practice making the presentation. Some people use the notes section to outline what they plan to say. Others write out a detailed script. There is no one way of preparing what you will say during a presentation. Just remember, you need to prepare yourself to speak just as you have prepared your slides.