Effective Presentations

Strategies for Designing Effective Presentations

Nicole Marcisz, Instructional Designer, ID&T


When delivering a presentation to your learners some common goals may be to enhance interest, clarity and retention; illustrate concepts; and reinforce content. However, students often struggle with deriving meaning from bullet points.  Use the following strategies to design and deliver effective presentations that produce the desired presentation outcomes.

Length and Interaction

The number one strategy is presentation length. Having a designated amount of time to fill doesn’t mean talking at the audience the whole time. Aim at incorporating a variety of interactive activities such as discussion, Q&A, and/or polling throughout the presentation. The shorter and more concise the presentation, the more effective the presentation outcomes. Strive to deliver presentation content in small portions of no more than 8-10 minutes each. You might also consider the delivery of a micro-lecture.

Core Message

Have a clear purpose to the presentation. A presentation that is clear to you may be just the opposite to your audience. One suggestion when starting a presentation is to address “What’s in it for me?” so attendees will want to pay attention from the start. Be careful not to overload the attendee with too many key points or outcomes in a single presentation. Use the power of stories, analogies, and case studies to reinforce factual information.

Visual Design

Use visuals rather than bullet points to support your message. Use text sparingly and ensure it is easily read from the back of the presentation room. Avoid using colored text. Instead, use bold face for emphasis. When using images, be sure to cite the image source. The Creative Commons is a great place to find images that are freely sharable.


Include an audio transcript when narrating a presentation for use outside the classroom, such as for flipped classroom activities. This is necessary for a number of reasons. First it’s needed for students with hearing impairments. Second, the Regis University Electronic and Information Technology policy states that all web-based content must be accessible. And last, it becomes an alternative method for the understanding of content, particularly for those with also greatly assists students with a linguistic learning style. ID&T can assist with the in captioning and transcribing of audio and video presentations.

The wrap up

Consider what is on the last slide of the presentation. Give the audience something to ponder by including an application of the concepts presented on. You may also provide a quick recap of key take-aways. Another idea is to ask “now what?” and use the remaining time for follow up questions and personal reflections.

Tools for effective presentations

PowerPoint is by far the most popular presentation tool but that doesn’t mean that PowerPoint is the most effective tool. Everyone has suffered through bad PowerPoint presentations so don’t be that presenter. Integrate the strategies suggested in this article with one or more of the following tools to create a simple, effective, visually appealing presentation.  


  • Free PowerPoint Templates: Alternative PowerPoint templates. Be careful to not select templates that may be considered too flashy.
  • E-Learning Resources & Examples for Success (Tom Kuhlmann, Rapid E-Learning blog). A general resource that frequently includes links to free PowerPoint templates and assets that are specifically designed for e-learning.

Other presentation tools to consider

  • Haiku Deck: Mobile friendly with free and low cost options. Assists in focusing on key ideas with simplicity. Includes several ready-made layouts to choose from. Easy to use.
  • Prezi: Alternative to PowerPoint that uses a single backdrop. Presentations advance by zooming and flying to the next slide. Free and low-cost accounts available. Presentation are cloud-based or downloadable.
  • Office Mix: free through the Regis University Office 365 account. Mix is a plug-in available through the PowerPoint menu. Easily add audio and interactivity to any PowerPoint.

Resources and more information