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Designing Effective Slides

Structuring Your Presentation

Most presentations consist of three main sections: an introduction, the body, and a conclusion. What you include in these sections and how you transition between them can make or break your presentation.


The introduction should take up about 10% of your slides.

  1. Start with a strong opening. You can tell a short story related to your research, explain how you got interested in your research topic, or some other relevant attention-grabber.
  2. Next, state clearly your primary goal of your presentation.
  3. Give the audience a reason to listen.



80% of your time will be spent on the body of your presentation.

  1. You should have three to five main points.
  2. The main points could include any of the following:
    • A problem
    • Why this topic is important
    • Theoretical grounding
    • Research goals and methodology (include research questions)
    • Key results/contributions (how your research contributes to the greater body of research in your discipline)
    • Future directions (how will you study the same topic or use the research in the future)
  3. Make each point very distinct. When you’re covering one point, only talk about that point.


The last 10% of your time should be spent on the conclusion.

In this section, provide a meaningful ending to your presentation. You don’t have to bring them to tears, but you should give them something to let them know the presentation is over. Having a strong conclusion will help make sure your presentation is understood and remembered.


Formatting Your Slides

How your slides look play a huge role in how engaged audiences will be. If they have a hard time reading your slides, it will be difficult for them to follow along and pay attention. Good slides are clear, big, and simple.

  • Make your information clear. Use an easy to read, standard typeface. Unique fonts may seem pretty or fun, but they distract from your content.
  • Use big fonts: Your font should be large and easy to read. Including only one idea per slide helps prevent you from trying to shrink your font to cram too much into one slide.
  • Keep things simple: Use color and animation sparingly, and use keywords instead of full sentences. Be sure to use words that everyone can understand instead of discipline-specific jargon. Relevant images can can pique the audience’s interest and figures and are a great alternative to text.

Keep in mind that your slides are only an aid, which helps people follow along. You want the majority of the attention to remain on you as you are presenting.