Planning Presentations

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.