March 2021 Monthly Briefing
Having audited a number of training course approval requests and numerous other lectures in recent years I thought it helpful to summarize several observations in the form of guidance for those of you planning to create a Power point presentation, perhaps for the first time. More experienced speakers among you may also pick up a few pointers here and there.
To begin, the preferred use of written text within a slide is to prompt a speaker’s further narrative, in the form of several bullet points for example. Too frequently, text appears as a series of entire sentences, worse still dense paragraphs. This invariably results in a speaker reading all this verbiage verbatim before moving on to the next slide and doing likewise, without offering any additional content or insight. On occasion I have wondered why the presenter even bothered to speak at all. The audience could likely do an equally effective job of reading the slides (if they were able to see them from the back of the room…next paragraph!). This approach does little to instill confidence in the speaker as a knowledgeable resource, perhaps on the contrary. When presenting on a given topic for the first time, I sometimes find it helpful to have ‘reminder’ notes visible with the Power point program in ‘Show Presenter View’ mode. As this topic is repeated to other audiences there will be a decreasing need to reference them.
Another point is the use of small font sizes to the extent that a great amount of the slide is uninhabited. Use larger font sizes so audience members don’t struggle to follow your text. When listing bullet points (preferably no more than five or six per slide) space them out to fill up the slide rather than cramping them together in one corner, thereby leaving a lot of ‘dead’ space.
If you are quoting a study, research finding or some other data, be sure to provide the audience with the appropriate reference. Among other things, this may preempt any disagreement/debate on the facts you cite, and it allows attendees to read more on the topic if it is of particular interest. Referencing can be in the form of a small text box at the bottom of the slide, the addition of a final slide that lists all the material you referenced, or perhaps a hard copy handout (available for download if the audience is virtual). Another method I tend to use is reproducing an article’s entire first page on a slide. When doing so, I occasionally highlight key messages, often within the Conclusions section. As it will often be difficult to read the citation text with this approach, I type it (minus the title which is readily viewable) in bold along the bottom of the page. In the attached link are examples of the way I tend to cite various publications, and there are no doubt others.
Something to avoid is citing material you haven’t read. In doing so, you are relying on another presenter’s interpretation of the information, which may not always be correct. To be comfortable quoting data and being able to answer related questions, a little background reading is a must. It will also serve to enhance your credibility in the eyes of the audience. If you are using images, please make sure that they are an accurate portrayal of what you are discussing. I have seen several apparent photographs of Nathaniel Henshaw, the first person to propose a hyperbaric chamber for therapeutic purposes, way back in 1664. The first photograph was not taken until some 150 years after his death. I have also seen renditions and photographs of his chamber; all attributable to other hyperbaric practitioners who arrived on the scene a couple of centuries later.
This is NOT Henshaw’s chamber.
You are very much encouraged to give talks, not the least for your own professional development. Perhaps starting out with co-workers as your audience then building up confidence to speak to larger groups is a good way to start. It will likely require a bit of background reading to become comfortable with the subject matter, but that’s a good thing in my view and worthy of committing to. Practicing a couple of times in front of co-workers, family and friends will do much to improve your confidence. It will also give you a measure of precisely how long it takes to deliver it, for scheduling and education credit application purposes. I have listened to a one-hour CEU presentation taking just 17 minutes and a 30-minute scheduled talk taking as long as 70 minutes.
Dick Clarke, President
National Board of Diving & Hyperbaric Medical Technology
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Updated April 8, 2021