Preparing an Effective Presentation: A Practical Guideline

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia


A presentation is simply a type of public communication in which the presenter uses words with or without visual aids. The goals of doing a presentation vary from providing information, communicating research results, giving instruction, selling a plan, product or idea, or accomplishing a combination of these things. In a scientific forum, a presentation is used to share, discuss, test research results, or develop idea, or skills.


To perform an effective presentation, you should make a careful preparation. You can do it by doing the following 6 steps.

1. Determine your goal and know your topic
It is said that “Nothing is as necessary for success as the single-minded pursuit of an objective“. Thus, the first thing and the biggest challenge you face in preparing a presentation is to define the purpose of the presentation and determine how to reinforce this purpose. In the context of presenting a research report, you should also make sure that you have really mastered the content of the subject of your presentation (your undergraduate thesis, in the case of making presentation for oral examination). You should also know where to locate certain information in your research report. Suppose an audience would like to know more about the participants of your research, make sure you can directly refer to a specific section (pages) in your report.

2. Know your audience
Please note that you can never speak effectively to people without first understanding their perspective. Therefore, you need to ask yourself the following questions before making the presentation. Who are the audiences? Where are they from? Why do they attend this presentation? What do they expect from this presentation?

3. Organize your materials
Generally, oral presentations should be organized into: (1) an introduction that ends with your main point and a preview of the rest of the talk, (2) a main body, and (3) conclusions (and recommendations). The introduction should clearly tell the audience what the presentation will cover so that the audience is prepared for what is to come. The body should develop each point stated in the introduction. The conclusion should restate the ideas presented and emphasize the purpose of the presentation. It usually answers the questions, “So what?”

4. Choose and design visual aids to reinforce your meaning 
Since we live in a time when communication is visual and verbal, visual aids are as important to oral communication as they are to written communication. Visual aids (1) help your audience understand your ideas; (2) show relationships among ideas; (3) help the audience follow your arguments [your “train” of thought]; and (4) help your audience remember what you said. In addition, visual aids also make a presentation more persuasive, more professional, and more interesting. 
To help you design your visual aids (i.e.) slides effectively, apply the “Ten Commandments for Making powerful and effective Slides” at the second section of this guideline.

5. Establish Rapport with Your Audience 
Building a rapport with your audience is one of the most important things you must learn if you wish to give an effective presentation. When you have established rapport with your audience, your presentation will flow smoothly and effectively because the audiences are now your partners in your presentation. As your partners, they’ll want you to succeed. They’ll overlook your nervousness and lack of polish. They’ll laugh at your jokes though they’ve heard it before. The followings are some tips you can use to build a rapport with your audience.

a. Get to know the audience
If you have never made a contact with your audience, it’s very important to arrive early. Spend around 10 minutes introducing your-self to the gathering people. Have a brief talk with them. Who are they? What do they wish to gain by being there today? Or even, what do they do for a living? This is an effective way to put people at ease. You may only speak with 5% of the audience, but they in turn will talk to people there and by word of mouth people almost feel like they know you. This will not only build rapport but help break the ice.

b. Treat Every Person as an Individual
Even if the audience has hundreds of people, deal with each audience member individually. If you’re dealing with somebody in particular in the audience, look that person in the eye and listen attentively. One study has shown that in a presentation the most important word is you. So use it as much as you like. In addition, whenever possible, use names. Naturally, we all like to hear our names because being addressed personally makes us feel valued and recognized. So before starting to answer somebody, ask him/her: And your name is?

c. Use eye contact
Eye contact is essential if people are to feel important. So be sure to look your audience in the eye, especially when addressing a particular person. But also don’t forget to take in the entire group with your gaze. Don’t address only those people in the first row.

d. Speak the language of the audience. 
With lecturers, use the common terms used in their fields. Use the word RAM to computer lover and watch their eyes light up. When speaking to associations learn if they are called clients, members, associates, delegates or true believers.

e. Ask rhetorical questions
If you’re dealing with a very large audience, every once in a while ask the audience a rhetorical question. This type of question forces a mental response. So, when not speaking directly to all audience members, with a rhetorical question a presenter can establish a connection with each individual.

f. Ask direct questions 
If your audience is small (less than thirty people), instead of asking rhetorical questions, ask specific audience members direct questions. This way one can easily perceive the mood of those individuals while also triggering interest in all. An audience member never knows when he/she may be asked the next question.

g. Smile! 
Smiles are universal and very effective means of creating rapport. If you smile, your audiences will naturally smile back at you. Remember that your audiences are a mirror of you, the speaker. If you think your audience looks miserable, it’s because you are making them miserable.

6. Practice! Practice! Practice!
After knowing what you are going to do and have an end result to aim for, it’s time to practice. Arrange some short rehearsals in the run up to your final performance. Remember that every good actor or actress spend a lot of time to prepare through practices before making the performance. It’s true that practices make perfect. Jacobi (in Wallwork, 2010, p. 2) emphasized the essence of practice by saying: “Ninety per cent or more of preparation is typically devoted to content. Countless hours go into creating and fine-tuning the presentation materials, and whatever time there is left over—if there is any time left over—is reserved for practice. Yet how you practice can literally make or break your presentation. Keep in mind that a lot of presentations die on the vine (i.e. are not effective at all) because they aren’t rehearsed properly, or they’re never rehearsed at all.

Ten Commandments for Making Powerful and Effective Slides

1. Thou shall not use a template containing distracting items
PowerPoint is software designed as a convenient way to display graphical information that would support the speaker and supplement the presentation through slides. Remember that you are the presenter, not your slides. People came to hear you and be informed or moved (or both) by you and your message. Slides are merely a visual tool to support your presentation. So, don’t let your message and your ability to tell a story spoiled by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or full of junks. Wallwork (2010, p. 8) accentuated that you need to create a slide only if it does one or more of the these four objectives: (1) to make an explanation less complicated and quicker; (2) to help people to visualize and recall something better; (3) to make something abstract become more concrete; and (4) to attract attention or entertains the audience (but only in a way that is relevant to your topic). If a potential slide does not do any of the above, then you probably do not need to create it.

Most PowerPoint templates contain distracting elements such as borders or shading that can detract from your message. So, it’s better to create a template of your own that has a solid background and is free from non-essential items, such as logos and footers. Let your slides have plenty white or negative space. You should not feel obliged to make use empty areas on your slide with any emblem or other unnecessary graphics or text boxes that do not contribute to better understanding. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your visual message will become.

2.Thou shall not break the 7 X 7 rule.
To make it easy for your audience to read and for you to present your point, do not include too many words in a slide. Put the idea in point form. If you put the idea in full sentences, not to mention in a paragraph, your audience will spend too much time trying to read this paragraph instead of listening to you. In short, avoid any “mega data” slides. To fulfill this, keep the 7 X 7 rule, i.e. putting only 7 lines containing only 7 or less words each. You can do it by using phrases or abbreviated sentences. Use the full sentences in your oral explanation, but not in the screen. The only exception is when you really must put short direct quotes. Reynolds, 2010, p. 57) accentuated, “Humans are incapable of reading and comprehending text on a screen and listening to a speaker at the same time. Therefore, lots of text (almost any text!), and long, complete sentences are bad, Bad, BAD”. Look at the following slides.

3. Thou shall not use less than 24 point fonts!
Slides that display texts too small to read will not aid you to convey your idea. They will also frustrate your audience. So, always use 24 point or larger font—the larger the better. If you have more text than can reasonably fit on a screen using at least 24 point fonts, you must either create another slide or shorten your text. All detailed information should be presented in your handout, not in screen. Presentation slides should be used to highlight only the most significant points. Compare the following slides and see how slide 3-B is more effective than slide 3-A.

…. To read or download the full paper in PDF format, click  here

Few, S. (2004). Show me the numbers: Designing tables and graphs to enlighten. Oakland: Analytics Press.
Reynolds, G. (2010). Presentation Zen design: Simple design principles and techniques to enhance your presentations. Berkeley: New Riders.
Sanders, L. and Filkins, J. (2009). Effective reporting (2nd ed.). Tallahassee: Association for Institutional Research.
Wallwork, A. (2010). English for presentations at international conferences. New York: Springer.

Jakarta, April 1, 2015


  1. Name : Lamtiar Br Hutabarat
    NIM : 1812150005

    I strongly agree with this article. this article adds to my knowledge in a better presentation going forward. according to the experience that I experienced in the class presentation, there are still many of my friends making presentations in front of the class yet perfect. Presentations are a type of public communication where the presenter uses words with or without visual aids. The purpose of making a presentation varies from providing information, communicating the results of research, giving instructions, selling plans, products or ideas, or completing a combination of all these things. in making presentations in front of the class, we must master the topics that we want to present, attract the attention of friends and our communication skills to friends. many students who make presentations only rely on reading in slides or books. they have not fully mastered the presentation they want to explain. This happens because they have not fully studied the topic and mastered the material they want to explain. Therefore, it is better for us as students, we must correct bad habits in the presentation. before we make a presentation, we have to study material from far away days so that we can master the material we want to explain, and practice to do our speaking abilities in front of the class to attract the attention of our friends.

    Liked by 1 person

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