Basics of a good presentation – what tools should I use?
In an earlier hub (Basics of a good presentation - Three things to know before you start), we looked at some points to consider when getting started on a presentation. Now that you have a topic and goals, you might want to add some visual aids or other presentation tools. What should you use? Let's look at some options, starting with questions to ask yourself as you plan.
Do I need visuals?
The goal of any presentation aid is exactly that – to aid the presentation. It's the tool, not the presentation itself. How many times have you been to a meeting where someone has a slide show with their whole speech on it...and then they read it to you?
If the visuals you use can provide the information without you, why are you there? Use any visuals to support your presentation, not give it for you. If you don't need them, don't use them. Ideally, the audience hears your presentation and the visuals provide an extra mode of getting the information to them – hopefully a way to enhance what you're saying, give them a way to relate the information in a new way, and increase the chance they will remember and apply it. Using both auditory and visual modes of communication should enhance your message - and especially benefit visual learners - so try to use them anytime it's actually practical for your presentation.
Do I have a choice?
You probably have some choices on which presentation aids you can use. Occasionally, someone will say that you must use PowerPoint (or other specific) software as part of your presentation. There can be a few reasons for this – it may be the only software available on the computer they provide for you, they may need all presenters to use the same format for publishing notes or slides later, and so on. If this is the case, then you definitely need to use PowerPoint, but if you have a choice, don't limit yourself to only one method of visual presentation.
One of my favorite mottos when teaching on a variety of subjects is, “use what works.” And actually, I often follow it up by saying, “use what works, for you.” You will feel much more comfortable, and therefore give a better presentation, if you have confidence in the tools you use. Contrary to what some may tell you, everyone does not use the same type of presentation software, and some don't use any at all.
Therefore, if a certain program is the most comfortable solution for you, use it. As long as it works for you. It's great to use some visuals to support your presentation, but let the talk determine the best supporting materials, not the other way around. Unless someone says you must use a certain presentation aid, then keep your options open. You are the presenter. Pick tools that work for you, not against you.
What do other presenters use?
Watch other presenters to see a variety of materials and presentation styles - not to copy them, but to learn from them. You might find that some presenters don't use slide shows at all, but choose to bring objects to demonstrate instead. Some presenters may prefer some type of board to write on – dry erase or chalk – especially in the cases of mathematical or artistic instruction. It's important to notice how good presenters fit the presentation method to the presentation topic. It won't be the same for everyone. Take notes on what you liked – and didn't – about each presentation. You can keep an idea file for use later. You may or may not use similar presentation aids, but seeing a variety of options will help you be more creative with your own presentations.
If I want to use a slide show or presentation program, what are my options?
You have plenty! Here are a few sources to get you started:
and this is just a short listing...by doing an online search for “presentation software” you'll find even more!
Do some research, and gather your tools!
In upcoming posts, we'll look at basic ideas for creating effective slideshow presentations, hopefully avoiding Death by PowerPoint, the topic of the classic slideshow by Alexei Kapterev (http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint), as well as the topic of a book by Michael Flocker (http://www.amazon.com/Death-Powerpoint-Michael-Flocker/dp/0306815125).