Top tips for designing presentations


flickr photo by ImagineCup shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This post introduces a few simple yet effective techniques for designing slideshow presentations.

Make sure your slides are complementary and not a distraction

Simultaneous use of speech, images and text can increase the cognitive load on your audience. Make sure that your audience focus on listening to your presentation rather than reading it;  slides are there to benefit your audience and not act as a script.

Minimise use of text, be concise and use images which complement and reinforce your points rather than distract from your speech. If you need to use a lot of text then consider moving it onto a hand-out sheet. Watch the following short (5 minute) video on Richard Mayer’s ‘Cognitive Theory of Multmedia Learning’ for more information.

Design your slides for the person sitting in the back row


flickr photo by Ben Kraal 95 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Make sure the content on each slide is clear and visible to the person sitting the furthest distance from the presentation screen. Consider the way that information is presented on a billboard as a good example of how to communicate visual information from a distance in a short space of time. Use large fonts, concise text and large images which reinforce the message and use of the entire space. Watch the following short (2 minute) video ‘Billboards & Slides: Learning from Ikea’ by Garr Reynolds for more information.

Use high-quality, copyright friendly images

Digital communication, lecture capture, smartphones, social media and cloud services such as slideshare making it common practice for presentations to be distributed beyond the lecture theatre or class room. This means that it’s now more important than ever to consider copyright and terms of use of the content included in your presentation.

Websites such as Photos For Class, CC Search and the Flickr attribution tool provide an easy solution to find Creative Commons licensed images which allows copyright owners to allow others to copy, distribute and make use of their work within the terms of the license. If you’re looking for more graphic based images such as icons and clipart then try one of the following excellent websites; Iconspedia, Open Clipart, Vecteezy.

Make sure that you understand the terms and conditions for reuse and have correctly attributed images where necessary. See the following page on the TEL website for more information about Creative Commons licensing.

Make sure your text stands out from the background

It’s much easier to make text stand out when the background is a single, solid, consistent colour. Make sure that the colour of your font and background are not too similar by using colours which either contrast or complement each other. The more colours you use, the more difficult this becomes to balance. The Jisc Basic Guide to Accessibility provides a useful introduction to good practice for making accessible digital resources.

Images aside, good practice is to use only a few colours per slide; Adobe Kuler is an easy to use tool for creating colour schemes. Using a drop-shadow effective on your text can help to make it standout from gradient or image based backgrounds.

Useful tools for creating presentations

Haiku Deck is an excellent free tool for designing slideshows which follow best practice. This is achieved by providing well-crafted templates, layouts and creative commons images whilst restricting control over aspects such as text limit, font size, colour and hierarchy to produce clear and professional slideshows with minimal effort. This tool perfectly complements Powerpoint with it’s ability to seamlessly import and export .ppt files.

Design class interaction into your slideshow by embedding quiz questions, multimedia Presiand activities with Nearpod or add mobile response polls to your Powerpoint files with PollEverywhere. Present your ideas on a virtual zoomable canvas with Prezi, a great alternative to the linear slide based presentation and perfectly suited to displaying information with a concrete or abstract relationship, i.e. mind-maps, timelines, storyboards.

If you wish to find out more about some of the tools or techniques mentioned in this blog post then please contact the TEL team at

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