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John Nash on Creating Outstanding Presentation Slides

My name is John Nash, and I am an associate professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a joint appointment in Human Computer Interaction. I’m also a program strategist, evaluator, and design geek.

Today I’d like to share ways to improve slide presentations.

Hot Tip: Know Your Audience – This is an oft overlooked tip from Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, a wonderful book on the art and science of creating great presentations. Duarte suggests seven questions to ask before developing any presentation:

  1. What are they like?
  2. Why are they here?
  3. What keeps them up at night?
  4. How can you solve their problem?
  5. What do you want them to do?
  6. How can you best reach them?
  7. How might they resist?

It’s easy to see how these questions would be important to answer in a business or sales presentation. However, amongst evaluators, they are often overlooked when designing a client briefing or conference presentation. I’m especially drawn to question 5, which reminds me that every presentation should be a call to action.

Hot Tip: Let Go of Text – Text can be a crutch for the time-pressed and insecure presenter. Duarte suggests three strategies to excising text as a crutch on your slides:

REDUCE: Practice presenting your slides a few times, then highlight one keyword per bullet point. Deliver your slides from only the keywords, using the rest as notes. Eventually, consider replacing the keyword with an image.

RECORD: Read your presentation out loud and record the audio. Play it back. Once you get over the horror of hearing your own voice, you’ll be able to concentrate on your content and not focus on the slides.

REPEAT: Practice, make note cards, draw a mind map, do anything that helps you visualize or create a cheat sheet. Then, look at your slides and delete as much as possible that’s covered already on your cheat sheet.

Rad Resources: If I could recommend only two books on presenting, they would be the aforementioned slide:ology and Gary Reynold’s Presentation Zen.

Hot Tip: Ignite! Ignite-style presentations are exactly five minutes long using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Using Ignite means delivering the most salient content, from a point of passion, while remaining story-focused (and thus, I argue, more audience focused). For example, watch Molly Wright Steenson’s presentation on the otherwise arcane topic of pneumatic tube networks. Did you adsorb more information than in any other five minutes of your day? Notice how she uses minimal text, good images, and a great story to grab your attention.

Want to learn more from John about giving great presentations? He’ll be offering an AEA Coffee Break Webinar on Moving Beyond Bullets: Making Presentation Slides Compelling on April 15 as part of AEA’s Coffee Break Demonstration Webinar Series (free for AEA members!). Learn more at http://comm.eval.org/EVAL/coffee_break_webinars/Home/Default.aspx

6 thoughts on “John Nash on Creating Outstanding Presentation Slides”

  1. Not knowing what it was, I attended an IGNITE presentation session at last year’s AEA meeting and just didn’t get it. Each presenter went through their material so quickly I was left with the feeling that there was no there there. I’ve been to my share of deadly presentations at AEA and elsewhere but I’m not sure that simply speeding things up is the answer. I’d like to stake a claim as a resister to hyper presentations, hyper reports, hyper graphics, etc. Holding an audience’s attention requires incisive content, not speed or pizzazz.

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  6. For members only, the screencast and recording of the Coffee Break Webinar John Nash offered on Making Presentation Slides Compelling may be accessed here http://bit.ly/Nashslides.

    Not a member? His handout on resources for learning more about Making Presentation Slides Compelling may be found in the AEA Public eLibrary here http://bit.ly/Nashhandout. I encourage you to consider joining and thus gaining access to AEA’s webinars archive library (as well as journals, professional development, thought leaders discussions, newsletters…). Join now online at http://www.eval.org/membership.asp .

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