Using presentation software successfully

  • Before you begin

    The tools

    • Consider the choice of tools available. A word processor may be easier to use and can produce better results than dedicated presentation software. HTML with CSS can be easy to produce and incorporate in a module's web page and is also very accessible.
    • Use tools that are supported by the University (eg OpenOffice or Microsoft Office) so that students can get help if needed.
    • Tip –  OpenOffice is free and available on a wide variety of platforms and so you or your students can very easily get a copy for your own computer.
    • If you demonstrate other software in the class, consider recording your demo with a screen capture program. You can then make this available to the students after the lecture.

    The right style

    • Have a consistent style for your slides.
    • Tip - If your software supports style management (that is the ability to say something is a heading, sub-heading, title, etc.) then that should be used to mark up your presentation. This makes changing pages very easy.
    • Use a size and positioning convention to indicate priority of points (eg the most important point in largest font size and furthest to the left).
    • Avoid backgrounds that contain a picture. Use solid colours or even better, no background at all.
    • If you use a background colour, consider how readable that is when a) projected and b) printed out on handouts. Try to use contrasting colours for background and text.
    • Tip– Sometimes a light font on a dark background is more readable than the more common dark font on a light background, especially with poorly darkened rooms.
    • Tip - Use “master pages” for information that is repeated on every page. Putting the lecture title and module number on every page to help keep notes together.


    • Transitions are very easily overdone – do not use more than one simple transition in a presentation.
    • One form of transition that can be useful is to grey out previous points and highlight the current point.
    • Animations should be avoided if at all possible.
    • Do not rely on colour alone to convey information. The colours on your screen may be very different from the colours projected by a data projector and can cause problems for people with colour blindness.
    • Tip– try the print test. If you print your slides on a black and white printer, one to an A4 page, are they readable? If you print your slides four to an A4 page, are they still easily readable?

    The equipment

    • Make sure that the projection equipment will project a large enough image in the room you are using.
    • Make sure that the projection equipment can produce enough contrast to be seen in the room you are using.
    • If you are using audio in your presentation, you will probably need separate speakers. Laptop speakers can be difficult for people with hearing impairment to understand. You may also need to use an audio loop system.
    • Make sure that cables, etc, do not cause a hazard.

    The lecture

    • Make electronic copies of your presentation available before the lecture
    • If you make changes to the slides, be sure that you make those changes available.

    Further information