Classroom Presentation

8 Tips to Power-Up Your Classroom Presentations

I recently attended a Back to School Night for parents, where I sat through presentation after presentation by instructors, some of whom used PowerPoint slides to make their presentations a pleasure to listen to, and others who… well, that’s why I’m writing this blog post.

When giving a classroom presentation, the goal is to assist you in efficiently delivering information in a way that kids (or their parents) will recall what you said. In certain cases, the presentation becomes a crutch, and they rely on the slides to convey their tale rather than on the slides themselves to assist them in telling their story.
In my 20 years of experience preparing presentations using software such as PowerPoint and KeyNote, I’ve learned a great deal about how to communicate most successfully with others. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

1. Use as Many Slides as You Need

It is a widely held belief that effective presentations require fewer slides. This simply isn’t true in this instance. I once sent an education conference presentation to the organizers in advance of my speaking so that they could get a taste of what I was going to say. They responded by writing to express their dissatisfaction with my 45-minute presentation, which had 116 slides. I took a peek at it and realized they were correct! I rewrote it and returned it to them with a presentation consisting of 135 slides. It took me only 5 minutes to finish my presentation, which gave me just enough time to accept questions, and the presentation was a rousing success.

It makes no difference how many slides you have in your presentation. What counts is how well your slides communicate and how much time you spend talking about each slide on the slide show itself. Although the material on each slide is identical, students will almost always find it more fascinating to spend five minutes on five slides than they will on a single slide when you spend five minutes on one slide.

In the film Amadeus, the Emperor of Austria expresses his dissatisfaction with Mozart’s music, claiming that it contains “too many notes.” Mozart responds in the following way: “Notes are provided in the same number as are requested. Neither more nor less is required.” Make use of as many slides as you need to effectively communicate your message. That is no longer the case. There will be no less.

2. Minimize Verbosity

In other words, your slides are not there to communicate what you are saying; rather, they are there to support your points. Keep your word count down to a bare minimum, and just include one primary point on each slide, with three to five sub-points if necessary. Keep in mind advice #1: don’t be scared to use more slides than you think you need. They’re completely free! It’s also not necessary for the language in your presentations to be in fully formed phrases. Reduce the number of words in the text to a bare minimum, using what is there simply to accentuate and reinforce — not to replace — the words that are coming out of your lips.

3. Maximize Visuals

Visual memory triggers such as photographs, figures, and icons are used. They assist your students in remembering what it is that you are talking about. Every opportunity to include a picture that will help demonstrate or reinforce the ideas you’re making in your slides should be taken advantage of. One fantastic approach to achieve this on a budget is to use public domain or creative commons photographs that you can locate on sites such as Flickr or Google Images.

4. Reduce Noise

Many teachers like to make their slides more visually appealing by including banners, headers, footers, page numbers, and other visual elements. The material should be removed unless it is necessary to be on every slide for some reason (which is quite rare). All that these superfluous components accomplish is to detract attention away from the content of your slides. This is especially true in the case of page numbers, in my opinion. Consider the possibility that a movie featured a time code at the bottom that was continuously telling you how long you had been viewing. All of this accomplishes is help to divert the viewer’s attention away from the present. Aside from serving as a reminder of how long your students have been watching, page numbers on slides provide a little more information.

5. Go BIG

It is unlikely that you will win any awards by squeezing as much information as possible onto the smallest number of slides, according to suggestions #1 and #2. Create as large font and images as you are able. Larger images and words have a stronger influence on the memory because they are easier to see and read, and they are easier to see and read because they are larger. There’s nothing wrong with using a photo to fill a complete slide and then overlaying text on top of it. It may be necessary to utilize a transparent background immediately behind the text for it to be readable, but the overall effect is nearly always more memorable than simply placing words next to an image on the screen.

The Old Adalie Plain Figure 3 is credited with this image. Text combined with an image effectively conveys the message… image credit: The Old Adalie Plain Figure 4…. however larger text and larger images are recommended for maximum impact.

6. Highlight What You Are Talking About

Students may be temporarily distracted while you are presenting by taking notes, thinking about what you are saying, looking out the window, or even daydreaming while you are speaking. When they return their attention to your slides, though, they must swiftly return to where they left off, or you risk losing them again.

Make use of contrast and call-outs to effectively illustrate the section of the slide that you are discussing.
One by one, reveal bullet points or table rows so that the final one to be revealed is the one you’re referring to in your presentation.
Make use of arrows, circles, and other pointers to indicate what you are referring to in certain sections of an illustration, photo, or chart.
Instead of presenting everything at once, animate and reveal bits of images and graphs (where possible) to develop your story rather than revealing everything at once.
Using strong font or varied colors to draw attention to the keywords in any lengthy paragraph is recommended.
Photograph courtesy of Jason Cranford Figure 5 by Teague. I’m using a red box to draw attention to the part of the image that I’m referring to.

7. Transition Changes

It is believed that humans suffer from a condition known as change blindness, which means that we have difficulty distinguishing between different states unless there is a clear transition between them. This is particularly problematic in presentations, when slides may appear to be quite similar to one another. Almost all presentation software packages have transitions that can be utilized between slides or on specific objects inside presentations.

Cross-dissolves are one of my favorite transitions because they allow the first slide to fade down while the next slide fades up. However, other transitions might help illustrate different points in your presentation. Are you referring to the Great Fire of London or the combustion of the city? Make use of the flame transition. Whether we’re talking about photography or Hollywood films, Make use of the flashing light transition. Even the most “cheesy” transitions can assist students overcome change blindness while also improving their overall recall.

8. Repeat Yourself Redundantly

Utilizing the same slide more than once — especially when using graphics — is acceptable if you’re trying to remind pupils of something they learned before. This does not permit you to be monotonous. It is, however, totally acceptable to repeat a slide if you wish to connect different ideas, stress a point, or inject a little comic relief into your presentation.

Bonus Tip: Make it Funny!

There’s no denying that emotional responses can be beneficial to memory. The ability to use comedy in a classroom slide presentation might be tough to achieve, but adding a little levity to your presentations at the appropriate points can help to provide students with important memory hooks and help them retain information.

This is the final word
Remember that the purpose of presentation slides is not to take the role of the teacher, but rather to assist your pupils in understanding and remembering what you are teaching. When you overwhelm someone with too much knowledge, it may be just as damaging as when you underwhelm them with too little.