Guidelines for Creating Overhead transparencies

Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

Unless one is a gifted orator, the belief that spoken words are the meat-and-potatoes of a presentation is mistaken. The presenter who wants the audience to grasp the meaning of her message, must strive to create readable, interesting, informative transparencies (slides). In times past, words were the primary means for transmitting abstract concepts. Today's audiences, however, are visual learners. They live and work with eyes focused on television, computer monitors, videos, photos, films, advertising graphics, and so on.

Visual images tend to dominate over words: The presenter who seeks to influence others' actions or decisions will plan to accommodate the human preference for visual information. According to research, learners should be telling us: "I hear it, I forget it." "I see it, I take it in." "I see it, hear it, and do it; it's mine." In summary, will you tell people? Sure. Will you show them? Certainly. Will you ask them to interact with you, one another, and the content of your presentation? Absolutely. Using all three methods - auditory, visual, and kinesthetic -- enhances your ability to influence audiences.

Design hints

Type face = Times or Arial
Point size = 20+
Case = Sentence type
Location = Top 2/3 of slide
Page set up = Landscape
Ideas = One per slide
Lines = Six per slide
Words = Six per line
Color? = Yes, if available
Contrast = More important than color
Graphics? = Absolutely
Clip art? = If appropriate and additive

Production hints

  • Let PowerPoint ease your way to designing effective slides. If you already know Microsoft Word, learning PowerPoint will be a snap. Focus your efforts on formatting, organizing, and managing information and on gaining proficiency with the superb drawing tools in PowerPoint.
  • Produce a paper copy of each slide; stand up; throw the copy on the floor; and critically review it from the audience's perspective.
  • Print slides on laser transparency film. Use a color printer if one is available.
  • Insert the slides in special sleeves that frame the slide (3M makes them).
  • Produce black and white or color handouts to facilitate note taking and review--two slides per page.
  • Create presenter notes pages in PowerPoint. To enable you to easily read your notes from their position on a lectern or a table top, use 16- to 18-point type.

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