Visual Display of Data – Points to remember in Presentations

Dr Saji K MD(Hom)

Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. If people understand where you are going to take them, they can relax and enjoy the ride. If they don’t, they will be distracted and frustrated.”  Michael Hyatt

The traditional visual aid which supports a talk at a class, conference or colloquium is a blackboard in our country. Overhead projectors and computer based PowerPoint presentations have supplanted the same in some fields with the advance of technology.

The ability to do a PowerPoint presentation well is a valuable skill that many students will find useful in connection with their academic work and employment.

PowerPoint presentation


  • Can easily input images and can easily add media and recordings.
  • Templates are built in for different appearances.
  • More exciting than an Overhead slide presentation
  • Helps to bind the audience to the subject.

Disadvantage :

  • Some features such as animations and backgrounds can distract the audience from the actual information in the presentation

Organization of visual aids:  Organize your slides with the following points in mind:

  • Title slide: The subject, Name of the presenter with qualification.
  • Introduction
  • Information to engage a general audience and to provide context to interest audience
  • Basic subject.
  • Conclusions or Summary slide
  • Question mark slide : Clearance of Doubts
  • Acknowledgment slide :  ( Thanking  audience, support, Advisor, etc.) 

Preparation of a PowerPoint presentation :

Font :

  • Use a very large font (even for a talk in a small room). If you reproduce printed material, enlarge it. Font size more than 28 is the best. Obviously, it depends on the size of the room, the size of the screen, etc.  – Exceptions: references or subtitles on graphs or pictures (however, try to use font no less than 20 if possible)
  • Use same font style throughout
  • Select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica.  Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino as they are sometimes more difficult to read.
  • Use a single sans-serif font for most of the presentation.  Use different colors, sizes and styles (bold, underline) for impact.
  • Avoid italicized fonts as they are difficult to read quickly.
  • To test the font, stand back six feet from the monitor and see if you can read the slide.
  • Avoid “title capitalization(all caps)” unless it’s a title. Sentence capitalization is much easier to read.
  • Bold: all text
  • Clearly label each screen.  Use a larger font (35-45 points) or different color for the title.


  • Colors depends upon background choices
  • Limit the number of colors on a single screen.
  • Bright colors make small objects and thin lines stand out.  However, some vibrant colors are difficult to read when projected.
  • Use no more than four colors on one chart.
  • Check all colors on a projection screen before the actual presentation.  They may project differently than what appears on the monitor.
  • Use dark text on light background or light text on dark background.  However, dark backgrounds sometimes make it difficult for some people to read the text.

Matter :

  • Limit the number of slides.  Presenters who constantly “flip” to the next slide are likely to lose their audience.  A good rule of thumb is one slide per minute.
  • Restrict each slide to a small number of lines. People come to listen to you talk, not to read your slides.
  • Use key words and phrases on the slides instead of entire sentences. Make sure to proofread for spelling errors.
  • If you need a particular slide more than once in your talk, reproduce it at the appropriate places rather than going back to it.
  • For bullet points, use the 6 x 6 Rule.  One thought per line with no more than 6 words per line and no more than 6 lines per slide
  • Do not use features of PowerPoint that do not contribute significantly to the presentation. Many people find un warranted use of special features of PowerPoint annoying
  • On each chart you make, ask yourself “Is my chart simple and clear enough that my audience will understand its meaning straight away, and remember its core message whenever necessary?”

Margins :

  • Leave ample margins on all four sides with an extra wide margin at the bottom since many in the audience will have their line of sight to the bottom of the screen obstructed.

Backgrounds :

  • Use color for emphasis but do not overdo it.
  • Use a simple, pleasing background
  • Avoid a background with many lines , many colors, or many shades of one color
  • Do Not Use Animated Backgrounds; they are distracting to audience

Graphs, diagrams, pictures, etc.

  • Make these as large as possible
  • Make any text be as large as possible.
  • Use appropriate significant figures on EXCEL plots or other types of plots that have numbers.
  • Don’t exceed four plots per page

Operation of PowerPoint during your talk

  • When possible, run your presentation from the hard disk rather than a floppy disk/pen drive.  Running from a floppy disk/pen drive may slow your presentation.
  • Use the Page Up/Page Down or cursor keys to move between your slides.

Distribute a handout.

  • For those who like to take notes, they can take them right on the handout. It also keeps people from getting frustrated when they can’t write down what is on every slide. Again, you don’t want people to get distracted and tune you out. A handout helps them stay focused on you.


  • Divide the latter portion of your talk into modules that you can discreetly disregard if time becomes a problem. If you have to omit portions of your talk, don’t tell your audience that you are doing so. (You will come across as not well prepared.)


  • Know what version of PowerPoint will be available (ppt 95/97 or later versions, for example)
  • Know what type of disc drive will be available for uploading your presentation
  • If special software is available for your presentation (QuickTime Movie player, Adobe Reader, etc.). You may have to make a special request for this software.

General instructions for a presentation :

Before your talk (Preparation)

  • Choose a subject that will appeal to the intended audience.
  • Know your topic; read background information; talk to your mentor, other faculty, etc.

Consider Audience: Those who wish to persuade, those who hope to convince, those who wish to illuminate and those who wish to communicate effectively all must pay special attention to the audience who will be watching their slides, hearing their voices and listening to their words. The goal is to inform, enlighten and possibly even change someone’s mind. The chances of reaching an audience are greatly increased if the presenter tries to understand the group and its characteristics . . .

  • Determine the level of knowledge of the target audience. Don’t overestimate or underestimate what the audience knows about your subject.
  • Don’t try to do too much.
  • Be prepared to answer questions
  • Practice as much as possible to achieve an easy delivery
  • Know as much about your subject area as possible
  • Have a Plan B in the event of projector failure/ technical difficulties. Get ready with OHP slides, printouts and handouts.
  • Anticipate questions you may be asked and have a response to them prepared.
  • Remember to full charge the laptop battery.

At the Stage : 

  • Wear good looking attire and practice good posture at the time of presentation.
  • Show up early to check out the room and the equipment.
  • Erase chalkboards even if you don’t plan to use them.
  • If possible, remove objects such as a podium, tables or chairs that won’t be used that are between you and the audience.
  • Bring a laser pointer and use it to highlight items.
  • Bring a remote control device so that you do not have to stand by the computer.
  • If you use your own laptop, use a power cord and turn off your screensaver.
  • It is better to keep the desktop background – windows default ( avoid animal, human or other pictures.
  • Keep some room lights on. The audience wants to see the speaker.

During your talk:

  • Begin by letting your audience knows that you are happy for the opportunity to speak to them.
  • Prepare a crisp beginning. Perhaps start with an anecdote, a question, or an application.
  • Give a brief overview at the start.  Then present the information.  Finally review important points.
  • Work to convey the impression that you are enjoying talking about this subject and that you are excited to have an audience.
  • Show enthusiasm for the subject. If you don’t, your audience won’t be enthusiastic either. Put a lot of energy in your talk. Your energy will energize the audience.
  • Generally stay off to the side but move, move, move! Occasionally move toward the screen. Occasionally move toward the audience. Occasionally move from one side of the screen to the other. A talk seems slow moving when the speaker is stationary. Keep your body “open” to the audience.
  • Don’t pace back and forth between the projector and the screen unless you plan to entertain your audience with some really interesting shadow puppets along the way…
  • Do not read your talk or memorize it. Practice the presentation so you can speak from bullet points.  The text should be a cue for the presenter rather than a message for the viewer. A glance should be all you need to see to speak about their content. Spend most of the time looking at the audience.
  • Keep technical terms and unfamiliar symbols to a minimum. When you do use them, remind your audience of their meaning from time to time.
  • There should be a logical flow from beginning to end, like in written work. Avoid jumping from one point to another, and be careful about adding information that is not directly related to the main theme.
  • When possible, relate your topic to other fields.
  • Refer to your slide information using a laser pointer
  • Hold pointer steady; do not waive it around
  • Personalize your presentation. Sprinkle anecdotes, humor, quotes, and personal items throughout your talk. Make clear what your contributions to the subject are.
  • Don’t distribute handouts at the beginning or during yourtalk. People will read them rather than listen to you. Mentionat the outset the handouts will be available after the talk so that the listeners don’t have to take notes.
  • Repeatedly remind the audience of unfamiliar definitions.
  • Go over big ideas twice. When you get to the main thesis of your talk, recapitulate the main ideas.
  • Make eye contact. Single out a particular person in the audience who appears to be interested in what you are saying. Look directly at him or her. Then move on to another person, then another. Their interest will energize you.
  • Speak loudly. Project to people in the back.
  • Vary your voice for dramatic effect. Occasionally change pace. Careful use of pauses will greatly enhance your effectiveness.
  • A good time to pause is when stating a major result, raising a question or showing a complicated figure.
  • Ask questions or rhetorical questions. Give the audience time to contemplate your questions.
  • It is not necessary to prove anything. If you can provide an insight about a proof with a few words or picture, do so.
  • Don’t belittle your own results or downplay your knowledge of the topic. It reduces your credibility to no benefit.
  • Avoid annoying mannerisms in speaking such as repeated use of “OK” or interrupting yourself with “I mean” or “you know.”
  • Check the spelling and grammar.
  • It is often more effective to have bulleted points appear one at a time so the audience listens to the presenter rather than reading the screen.
  • If sound effects are used, wait until the sound has finished to speak.
  • If the content is complex, print out the slides so the audience can take notes.
  • Do not turn your back on the audience.  Try to position the monitor so you can speak from it.
  • Do not exceed your allotted time. To do so indicates you were poorly prepared and have bad manners!   

After your talk :  When you are about to end the presentation give a signal, because audience don’t to be faced with an abrupt ending. They have to formulate some questions or summary.

  • Close by thanking your audience.
  • When you are asked a question, move towards the person who asked it and repeat or rephrase the question for the audience.
  • Answer clearly and concisely; if you don’t know the answer, say so
  • Plan to stay a while after your talk. People may want to talk with you about it.
  • After your talk, do a self-evaluation. Make notes about what went well and what could be done better next time.

Multimedia presentations may be compelling and persuasive. Or they may be glib and disappointing. In the worst case, students will devote more attention to special effects than they will spend on the issues being studied. In the best case, the presentation enhances and communicates a larger and deeper body of work and thought.

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