Key Takeaways

  1. Audiences retain information best if it is presented both verbally and visually.
  2. Visual aids should pass the “billboard test,” i.e. the audience should be able to grasp the single key point of the slide very quickly.
  3. Avoid “Frankendecks,” i.e. the temptation to cobble slide content together from multiple, disconnected sources.  Instead, begin with your “MVP” concepts in mind:
    1. Who is my audience?  What are my speaking goals?
    2. What structure / outline do I want to follow?
    3. How do I start and end strong?
  4. Leverage the “picture superiority effect,” i.e. a picture is worth a thousand words.  Provide visual reinforcement for your most important concepts.

Explore Further

optional exercises for further reflection and practice



Choose 1-2 slide design apps (e.g. PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, Prezi) and assign yourself to spend at least 1-2 hours reviewing one or more tutorial videos for each app you choose.

Like typing and spreadsheeting, “sliding” is a skill you’ll likely need throughout your career.  Whether you are creating — or overseeing the creation of — impactful slides, it’s important to be grounded in a deep understanding of what’s possible in various apps. 

Some of our favorite recent, free tutorial resources are listed in the Review section above.  As you start trolling around in these, we’re certain you’ll find additional resources as well!  Paid learning sites such as Lynda (LinkedIn) and Udemy also offer learning and certification opportunities in slide design.

Build Your Checklist

this list grows throughout the academic quarter
  1. Create Anxiety Management Plan (AMP) and use when speaking publicly
  2. Define audience and speaking goals:
    1. Who am I speaking to?
    2. What are their needs?
    3. What do I want them to know, feel, or do differently after hearing me?
  3. Choose and apply an identifiable structure, such as:
    1. What, so what, now what?
    2. Problem, solution, benefit
    3. What is, what could be, new bliss
  4. Create a powerful opening and closing
  5. Create transitions that:
    1. Resummarize prior section
    2. Introduce next section
    3. Signpost overall structure
  6. Prepare visual aids that reinforce structure and story:
    1. One big idea per slide
    2. Quick impact
    3. Clean and crisp
  7. Practice and digitally record talk repeatedly, refining:
    1. Visual delivery: Stance, movement, gestures, eye contact
    2. Vocal delivery: Volume, dynamics, pace, tone
    3. Verbal delivery: Clear and vivid word choices, minimize fillers