Presentation Design for the College Classroom (LCU Undergraduate Faculty)

Note: I gave a similar presentation to the Hargrove School faculty back in April.

What do effective presentations look like in a college classroom?

Last Friday I offered some thoughts on this with my colleagues in the School of Undergraduate Studies (SUS) at Lincoln Christian University. Here are the key points we covered.

  1. Don’t default to PowerPoint – You have lots of options for learning experiences: demonstrations, writing/drawing on the whiteboard, discussion, video, and more. PowerPoint is just one tool.
  2. One idea per slide – The less that’s on the slide, the fewer distractions, the better the focus. Instead of using one slide with six bullet points, expand that one slide out to six separate slides.
  3. Minimize text – Closely related to #2. Don’t type everything on the slide that you plan to say. Use just a word or two.
  4. Use pictures – Images are powerful and emotional. We remember what we feel. When you use images, don’t feel constrained by the placeholders on the slide–let your photos fill the slide. See The Girl Effect for a good example of these points.
  5. Stories for the win – Stories engage us emotionally and spark curiosity, an essential ingredient for learning. They can also be used to keep and regain attention (See Dr. John Medina’s notes on attention from his book Brain Rules).
  6. Give cues – Many students take notes by writing what they see on the PowerPoint slides–nothing more. Give students verbal cues: “write this down,” “this is important,” “this will be on the test.” You can also build visual cues into your presentation that help them navigate your lecture. For example, create your main point slides in one color and subpoint slides in a different color.
  7. Get inspired – Here are a few helpful resources: TED (and here are some of my favorite talks), Slideshare (here are my favorites), Compfight (great tool for searching images on flickr), Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (give them your email address and they’ll give you some excellent teaching and presenting resources for free), and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. I’ll recommend our own book, Presentation Renovation, as well–you can download it right now.

Last fall I wrote a couple posts to help students prepare better presentations for their end-of-semester projects. You might find those helpful as well:

Thanks to Dean Jim Estep and Provost Clay Ham for making time for this in our faculty meeting.

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