Presentation Fundamentals

Here are the notes I took from a lecture on presentation fundamentals during my first year in grad school. The lecture was given by a professor who has a Ph.D. in English literature as well as an MBA and who is somewhat of an expert when it comes to technical and non-technical communication in various forms. The notes are not very formal, do not articulate all of the information given in the lecture, and are intended primarily to be a starting point for learning about how to craft high-quality presentations.

  • Focus on what the audience needs to hear and not on what you have to say or what you desire to discuss.
  • Most presentations use Microsoft PowerPoint (or a similar presentation software such as Keynote on a Mac or a more sophisticated piece of presentation software such as Prezi), but that’s not what matters most. The focus of attention should be the presenter, so don’t put too much stuff on your slides.
  • Practice enough so that you know the content of the presentation very well. This will help you be more natural and will allow you to better go with the flow during the actual presentation. This can only happen when you know your stuff very well.
  • Dress appropriately – usually one level above your audience.
  • Work backward from your audience’s needs. This means you should lead with your headline or main point and then move forward. Once the headline or main point is given, everything you do is related to that headline or main point in the audience’s mind. This makes things much more efficient.
  • Keep in mind that people are there to hear a few specific things. Make sure you tell the audience what they are there to hear.
  • Benchmarking – put things into context.
  • Use “ghost decks” to help you outline, organize, and prepare
  • “So what” analysis – once an initial draft of the presentation is complete, ask yourself the following question for each slide: Why do I have this slide in the presentation? If it’s not important, put it into the appendix.
  • The headline of each slide should be the point, not a description of the point you will discuss. For example, don’t put “Trend Line for Last 5 Years” in the headline when putting “Price Trending Upward for Last 3 Years” would be far more effective. The first one tells us what we will see, but the second one tells us what we need to know.
  • If you go to a doctor, do you want him or her to give you a 45-minute analysis/lecture leading to the conclusion about whether or not you’ll need surgery? Wouldn’t you rather the doctor tell you right away whether or not the surgery will be needed and then discuss the reasons why after you are grounded with the knowledge? Wouldn’t you be less anxious, and wouldn’t the subsequent discussion be much more useful to you since you would already understand what it is referring to? Keep this in mind when crafting presentations.
  • Normal Analysis – Data to Conclusions
  • Analysis in Presentations – Conclusions usually first
  • No more than one conclusion/headline/main point per slide


Tags: lecture

Comments are closed.