Could your slideshows be improved? Do you know all the best practices?
Answer these 10 questions and find out if your presentations are up to date and optimized for impact!

1. I always aim for one slide per minute
2. My slides contain 5 to 7 lines of text
3. I use the title to summarize the main message of the slide
4. I use the last slide in my presentation to say ‘thank you’ to my audience
5. My first slide contains the official title of my research project
6. I like to end my presentations by summarizing all my conclusions on one slide using bulletpoints
7. I always include a table of contents
8. I always show the number of slides in my presentation and where we’re at, so that my audience knows how much is still to come.
9. I design my slides so that they can be understood as handouts as well
10. When I present for my peers, I include as many details about my research as I can


SCORE: [field12] out of 10 correct

Ouch! You tested POSITIVE for a bad case of Sleepy Slide Syndrome. Use the tips below to get better - promise you'll follow the doctor's advice!

Our test suggest that you’re not gravely ill, but you might still spread some contagious bad practices in slide design. To stop the spread of bad slides, please inoculate yourself with the tips below and you’re well on your way to a healthy presentation!

You are the presentation master! But even when you’re not sick, it’s good to learn how to stay healthy. There are always things to improve - are you sure you follow all the tips below?


Presentation tips

1. There is no right number of slides per minute.


The presentation is about you and what you want to tell about your work. So it depends on what you are talking about and what you need to show visually to support this. That means that sometimes you can talk about the same slide for minutes, and in other occasions you show a series of slides in quick succession.

2. Fewer words per slide is best!


Limiting yourself to 5 lines is better than using extensive texts, but less words are always preferred! Reading requires a high amount of mental energy, which is fine when you’re submerging yourself in a book, but awkward when you’re trying to listen to spoken words at the same time. So when you use text on your slides, your audience will read it instantly and stop listening to what you’re saying. Research shows that by using relevant pictures instead, you can hold the attention of your audience and help them to understand and remember your story better. Remember that a presentation should support your narrative – not compete with it!

3. Write your summary or conclusion in the title


This is true in the sense that it matters what kind of title you use. Use a title that gives a conclusion about the slide content rather than a general description. So for instance ‘Medical Scientists use more pictures on their slides than social scientists’, instead of ‘Results’.

4. Don't use a "thank you" or "questions" slide!


There is nothing wrong with gratefulness, but instead of using a slide with ‘Thanks’ or ‘Questions?’, make eye contact with your audience and sincerely and orally express your appreciation for their attention and offer the opportunity for questions. You can even take the opportunity to direct the questions: “I am very interested in your ideas on….. and would welcome any questions and suggestions on that subject.”

5. Don't use the official title of your research on your first slide


Using the long official title will often result in long and unnecessarily detailed or complex sentences that the audience will read and try to understand while you would rather have them listen to what your are saying yourself!It is better to use an abbreviated but meaningful title which you can explain in your own words. Better yet; transform the often highly factual scientific titles into a statement or the main message of your presentation.

6. Use pictures and your words rather than long summaries


As mentioned before in question 2, it is better to use pictures on your slides, and limit the amount of words. If you have to use difficult terms and can’t find an appropriate synonym, you might want to show these words on a slide. But don’t overdo it!

7. Table of contents slides are unnecessary


To be honest, this is often a superfluous slide. You can convey this overview yourself, with a little explanation here and there about what to expect. Moreover, most content slides use very generic chapter titles like ‘Results’ and ‘Conclusion’, so what is the added value of visual support (or rather distraction)?

8. Don't show the number of the slide


It may seem like a nice gesture, but the feeling it evokes in the audience is more ‘how many slides I have still to powerthrough’ or ‘Jeez, slide 23 out of 80, and we’re already nearing the end of the time slot!’ than ‘would you look at that, we’re at slide 23 out of 80’. It has a noble thought behind it, but why not just keep their attention with a good story? In addition, there is the issue of spare slides that you may use for questions, that inflate the number of slides and discourage your audience even more.

9. Slides are not handouts, so don't use them as such!


We are truly sorry for this, but if you thought that making a PowerPoint presentation is already a lot of work, this message may come as a disappointment. You need to make a PowerPoint presentation for a live audience with lots of functional pictures and a minimum of text. Because you are the star and you will tell the story. The slides with pictures are there to support the information process of the audience which are listening and looking at the slides at the same time. Those who were not present need extra text to understand some of the presentation. Including the text on the slides for a live audience is doing them a disfavor.

10. Skip the complicated tables of data and details of your results


It may seem like a good idea to include lots of information and details on your slides, so that your audience can see all your data and appreciate how much work has gone into it. However, the result will be that the text will be too small to read and that your audience will miss out on your story because they are trying to process all the information on the slide – instead of the parts you are talking about. Unless you gradually built up such a slide and give the audience enough time to digest the information, this is not a good idea at all.
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