Planning content for handouts, presentations, posters, and Powerpoint for workshops, classrooms, and conferences
Think ahead. Plan what you want your handout or presentation to accomplish or communicate.
Consider your audience
• Who is your audience?
— Is your audience a cross-section of the public, specialists, or lay people?
— What are the needs or expectations of the audience?
— Do you need to explain concepts, vocabulary, or terminology?
• What are the demographics of your audience?
— Will a majority of your audience be children, middle age, senior citizens, or teenagers, or will it be a mixed group across the age span?
— Is one or more audience member likely to be affected by low vision, impaired hearing, or mobility issues?
— What are the likely reading and math abilities of the audience?
— Is one or more of your audience likely to be an English-as-a-Second-Language learner?
— What, if any, gender, cultural, or social biases or sensitivities need to be addressed?
• What is your goal for the audience?
— What action do you want the audience to take with the information and material you provide?
Create your content
• Clarify your purpose by defining the goal of the material being developed.
• Plan for multi-purposing, as appropriate (i.e. handouts that can be printed from your Powerpoint presentation).
• Keep content simple, concise, and objective
— Prioritize content. Summarize the most important information in one or two brief paragraphs at the top of your document.
— Answer the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why, as appropriate.
— Write at a 6th grade level.
— Explain only one idea per sentence.
— Keep sentences 25 words or less in length.
— Use a tone that avoids unnecessary formality.
— Answer readers’ obvious questions.
• Use a table of contents, when appropriate, to guide the user to the information they are looking for.
• Use relevant headings and subheadings.
• Use numbered lists and bold type to emphasize keywords and make main ideas stand out.
• Avoid empty content:
— Avoid using jargon and buzzwords unless they are defined.
— Avoid using promotional language that communicates “hype” rather than substance.
— Avoid using pop lingo, texting lingo, street slang, or colloquial terms.
• Define acronyms in context.
• Develop straightforward, captioned graphics, charts, or illustrations to reinforce crucial facts explained in textual content.