And here's another post that I'm stealing from Of Two Minds: How to Give a Bad Science Presentation.
Of course, the advice they give applies to presentations given to fellow scientists, with the objective of introducing your work to them. And in that particular scenario, I probably agree with everything they say.
However, what if the aim of the presentation is not to inform, but to educate? In other words, what if you're giving a lecture? This is very topical for me, as I've just finished a course where students were giving presentations on papers, and I've had to do one of the presentations myself. We disregarded most of the rule they came up with. Were we right to do so? Well, let's look at the rules:
- Be able to give the presentation without support of the slides.
That one's a tricky one, because we were explaining a technique. In my part, I was heavily relying on examples to explain what was happening, and those examples were all on the slides. Could I have done it on the blackboard? Probably, but not without taking considerably more time. Still, we did rehearse a few times, so I think we could have brought the point across even without the slides. Overall, this rule holds.
- No outlines on the slides
Now this I can't completely agree with. Sure, giving an outline is slightly superfluous when you're repeating what it says on the slides. But if you're trying to get an unfamiliar topic across to an audience, reinforcement helps. During the presentations by other groups, I often found myself referring back to the slides when I hadn't caught what they were saying. I think outlines have their place in lecture slides.
- The less text the better
Two problems with this one: The first is the point that I just raised that it helps to refer back to the slide if you missed or were confused by what the speaker was saying. The second is that sometimes, the slides are made available to the audience as a study help before or after the talk. They effectively double as lecture notes, and so it is helpful if they contain enough detail so that you can understand them without the help of the speaker.
On the other hand, too much text can indeed be distracting during the presentation. So I'd advocate a compromise solution here: Keep the slides sparse, but provide detailed lecture notes at the end. Unless you're confident that your speaking ability is good enough to allow your audience to follow along easily and take notes while they do.
- Let us see the data
No argument there: Figures should be clear and big enough so that the audience can get a sense of what it is you're trying to show.