October 5, 2014

The 10 Commandments for an Effective Presentation

By Daniel Cabrera

Author: James E. Colletti, M.D. (@jimcollettimd)

Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine


“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech” - Mark Twain




  •  Define the key question of preparing visual aids.
  • Outline the 10 commandments of a power point presentation.
  • Name the key elements of effective handouts,


Target Audience

  • Emergency Medicine Physicians interested in enhancing their audiovisual materials for teaching, administrative or research presentations.


Key Question

  • Does the visual aid improve your talk?
  • Think of a commercial you have seen that was extremely entertaining and then you realized that you have no idea of what is being advertised
  • The message was missing or overshadowed by the presentation
  • Do not obscure the message with gimmicks
  • Whenever possible attempt to simplify
  • Before adding an element to a slide ask yourself the following two questions
  • “Does this enhance my message or distract from it?”
  • “Is it consistent with the message I am try to convey?”


10 Commandments of Power Point

  1.  Your best visual aid
  2. Visual aids should be visual
  3. KISS Theory
  4. Less is more
  5. Avoid distracters
  6. Bigger is better
  7. I must be in the front row
  8. Seeing Red
  9. Drive 55
  10. Love is never having to say you’re sorry


Commandment #1

Your Best Visual Aid

  • You are your best visual aid. Your audio visual aids should not distract from you or your message
  • Remember the audience is there to hear what you have to say, not read off your slides. The audience can read your slides at home if they want.


Commandment #2

Visual aids are Visual

  • In other words anytime a picture, diagram or chart can be used instead of words it is to you advantage as people remember:
  • 20% of what they Hear
  • 30% of what they See
  • 50% of what they Hear and See


Commandment #3

KISS Theory

  • As Walt Whitman wrote in the Leaves of Grass “The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity”
  • Keep your visual material simple and consistent
  • Be Consistent
  • Choose a consistent style
  • Visually consistent with backgrounds, fonts
  • Apparent all slides are related presentation
  • Keep it simple by avoiding clutter
  • Clutter confuses and distracts from your presentation
  • Decrease excess verbiage and minimize slide text through the use of active wording and short sentences
  • Eliminate qualifiers and connectives
  • Use shorter words and phrases as well as active tense
  • Fill in the details with the verbal presentation. Not everything needs to be written on the slide (see commandment #4)
  • One message per slide
  • Edit, Edit, Edit until your slides are clean and simple


Commandment #4

Less is more – Avoid busy slides

  • It is very tempting to put all the information on your slides.
  • Slides should only contain the key points you want the audience to remember.
  • We have all seen busy slides with all (and then some) of the material the speaker is attempting to convey.
  • In these cases each slide is treated as if it was a page from a book.
  • The presenter attempted to maximize the AV material by packing it all in there i.e. the 10 pounds of material in a 5 pound bag.
  • The speaker often preemptively mentions or apologizes for the slide by saying something like “This slide is a little busy so you may not be able to see it from the back row.”
  • When in truth you are unable to see it even from the front row.
  • This has also been called the billboard rule – Don’t pack any more into a visual aid than you could read from a billboard that you pass at highway speeds
  • The bottom line is that slides are there to amplify the spoken message not replace that message


Commandment #5

Avoid Distracters

  • It often tempting to add several moving parts or cartons to your presentation. They are fun to put in at the time but may distract from your message
  • Overuse of presentation technology can obscure your message.
  • Remember a badly organized speech cannot be salvaged by Holly Wood graphics
  • In other words avoid the temptation of power point software. Use animation and other special effects sparingly as too many effects distract form your message.
  • Also avoid distracting backgrounds or templates


Commandment #6

Bigger is Better – Use larger size fonts

  • 32 Font or higher is best
  • 28 Font is acceptable
  • Avoid 24 font and less as it is too small and can make your presentation appear cramped


Commandment #7

“I must be in the front row” Make your presentation for the back row

  • Arrive the night before you speak and preview your slides from the back row
  • For power point presentations use only readable Fonts such as:
  • Arial
  • Arial Black
  • Century Gothic
  • Franklin Gothic
  • Tahoma
  • Verdana
  • Comic Sans
  • Lucida Sans
  • Fonts to Avoid when making a power point presentation
  • Courier New
  • Times New Roman
  • Book Antiqua
  • Blackadder ITC
  • For emphasis considering a change in font color, bolding or shadowing any of the above fonts but avoid using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS (AS ALL CAPITAL LETTERS CAN BE DIFFICULT TO READ AND MISPERSERVED AS SHOUTING) or underling.
  • In general avoid fad fonts and stick to classic styles


Commandment #8

Seeing Red - Avoid Red Text

  • Thinking of using Red for emphasis? Think again.
  • Red exits at a wave length at edge of human perception which makes it difficult to focus on
  • Red is also an inflammatory color – just ask any bull (1)
  • Use color sparingly
  • Limit yourself to no more than 2 to 3 colors per slide
  • Consider employing the “moving highlight” technique
  • Instead use yellow font on dark background for emphasis
  • Dark backgrounds project well and decrease the appearance of dust on the screen
  • Traditionally calming colors such as blue and violet have been recommended for scientific presentations


Commandment #9

Drive 55

  • 5 words per line
  • 5 lines per slide
  • 5 words per title


Commandment #10

Love is never having to say you’re sorry - Never put your self in a position where you need to apologize for your presentation

  • Do not put yourself in the position of having ineffective or crowded slides. Instead either redesign your slides or go without the ineffective




  • Help promote long term retention and provide a reference for the audience
  • Allow the audience to listen (rather than take detailed notes)
  • Aid in clarification of detailed information


  • Make them look professional
  • They should be able to stand on there own. In other words, they should be made for those of us who never attended lecture in medical school and only read the handouts
  • Allow space for notes
  • As the speaker always follow the handout


  • Outline
  • Text
  • Copy of slides

When to Distribute Handouts

  • Myth: Never give out handouts before you present

Distribute Before

  • Materials you would like to reference
  • Include audience participation
  • Allow the audience to take note

Distribute After

  • Handouts summarize your points and present supplemental info

Remember to

  • To spell check
  • Edit
  • Review with a friend – find someone you trust to give you unbridled constructive criticism and have them hear your presentation, look at your slides, and review your handout .



  • While preparing a presentation ask yourself does this improve it?
  • Power Point’s 10 commandments
  • You are your best visual aid
  • Visual aids are visual
  • KISS
  • Less is more
  • Avoid Distracters
  • Bigger is better
  • Make your presentation for the back row
  • Avoid red text
  • Drive 55
  • Don’t put yourself in a position to apologize
  • Handouts need to be able to stand alone
  • Always follow your handout
  • Its ok to distribute your handout before your talk



Reference here.

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