Slides for Presentations?

Paul Schlosser SCHLOSSER at
Tue Apr 19 15:23:06 EST 1994

In <199404191920.AA14635 at>
Georg Fuellen <fuellen at> asks:

>In article <199404191203.FAA27536 at>, you write:
>|> I don't have a book to recommend, but the following is a table from a
>|> Microsoft Newsletter that I keep taped to the top of my monitor.
>|> Output		Largest		Norm		Smallest
>|> _________________________________________________________
>|> On-Screen	36 pt		24 pt		18 pt
>|> Overhead	24 pt		18 pt		12 pt
>|> 35mm slide	36 pt		24 pt		18 pt
>|> Flip Charts	24 pt		18 pt		12 pt
>|> (& posters)	"		"		"
>|> The other 3 rules are: 
>|> 1)	never, ever (photo)copy any table/text directly from a manuscript
>why ? (if the photocopier enlarges the text sufficiently, things should be ok)

Two reasons: The 1st is that a table from a ms. usually contains more data or
		entries than you will actually discuss (see 3 below).  Rather
		than suffering the temptation to leave it in, or having to use
		white-out, it's better to re-enter the table, preferably in
		a program designed for presentations.

	The 2nd is that when you enlarge the text on a photo-copier, you also 
		enlarge the lines that separate various categories, etc., to 
		the point that they are visually distracting.  (You also
		increase the amount of photo-copier blotches.) This is a more 
		subtle point, but the big fat lines that come from photo
		-enlargement do make a table harder for the audience to read.

Now in an informal setting (e.g., a journal club) these "rules" are not that
necessary.  But if you are presenting at a meeting, or, especially, for a
job interview, these are strongly suggested.

>|> 2)	*always* prepare overheads and 35s in landscape mode (*never* 
>|> 	portrait).
>why ?

Have you ever seen slides that go off the top or bottom of the screen,
usually accompanied by "You can't see the legend here but what it says 
is ...."  Or accompanied by much adjusting and moving of the projector
or over-head transparency.  This is distracting for the audience and
detracts from the talk.  It also makes you look like you didn't prepare
very well.  This only happens with portrait mode slides because screens
are designed for landscape presentation (they are wider than they are
tall).  Even if the portrait fits on the screen entirely, the bottom is
often blocked by the people sitting in the front row, so that those behind
must crane their necks and fidgit about. "The people in the back might
not be able to see this, but ...." 

>|> 3)	If you are only showing a few #'s from a table, then make a new
>|> 	table with only those #'s in it.  *Do not* show a big table of
>|> 	tiny text and then say "I just want you to focus on these few
>|> 	entries."  (This is actually a corrolary of #1.)
>|> OK, one more:
>|> 4)	Put a title on every slide (you might make an exception for pathology
>|> 	slides).
>|> Following these rules will cure 90% of the problems.  Colors are very helpful
>|> if used well, but don't distract your audience with fancy backgrounds.  Do
>|> you want them to remember how nice the slides looked or do you want them to
>|> remember what you said?
>  georg
>fuellen at Mathematik.Uni-Bielefeld.DE
>fuellen at MIT.EDU

Also, the amount of text should be no more than a few sentences, in bullet
listing.  Multi-sentence paragraphs are very hard for the audience to read.
How do you react when a page of text is put up?  Do you actually read it
through?  And if you are reading it, are you listening to what the speaker
is saying at the same time?  It is better to put up a short phrase or
sentence and then to explain what it means.  The audience will read the
phrase in a moment and then listen to you.

Ah, and for graphs:  always explain the coordinates on the axes before
discussing the data points, and/or model curves.
schlosser at

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