Using PowerPoint in Presentations

Visual aids are an important element of a good oral presentation. Using visuals can add interest to your presentation and help you communicate your ideas.

You can use PowerPoint or any other presentation software to produce visuals. If you use it well, PowerPoint allows you to present colourful, interesting visuals and manage and combine a range of multimedia information.

Visuals can:

  • help you cover more ground in less time
  • link the sections of your presentation
  • illustrate something that is difficult to explain or time-consuming to describe
  • show reality in ways that words alone cannot (photographs, plans, maps)
  • help the audience visualise abstract concepts (charts/ diagrams/ conceptual visuals)
  • summarise information (keywords, graphs, tables)
  • add interest to a 'dry' topic

1. Prepare

1.1 Plan your presentation

Before you even think about making visuals for your presentation, you must know what you are going to say (see Academic Skills' guide to Oral Presentations for more information).

  • Write your presentation script.
  • Organise the structure (your introduction, body and conclusion).
  • Identify the main points and concepts, then determine which of these will require a visual for clarity.
  • Write an outline to help plan your visuals.

After you’ve written your talk, then start planning your slideshow.

1.2 Plan your visuals

Once you know what you’re going to say, you can plan visuals to support your presentation. Planning helps you gather and organise your ideas before you start designing slides on computer. Planning will not only save time, but ensure that your visuals are effective.

Make a storyboard

Draw up a 'storyboard'—a visual layout of the different 'scenes' in your presentation in rough sketch form. Storyboarding your slides before you create them helps you visualise how the content of your presentation will flow and how the slides relate to each other. Your storyboard should be a type of map, outlining the main points of your presentation.

Draw in pencil and have an eraser handy. You can rule up some frames on A3 paper or use a set of index cards or large post-it notes (cards/ post-its can be rearranged to try out different presentation sequences).

Getting started

  • Decide how many slides you need to use and draw up the appropriate number of frames. (The number of slides you use will depend on the length of your presentation; use no more than five or six slides per 10 minutes).
  • Follow the structure of your presentation outline and consider how your presentation will fit into consecutive frames.
  • Think beyond bullet points and consider how you could translate text or data into something visual.
  • Make rough sketches for each slide. Don’t worry about neatness at this point, just ensure the idea of the visual is clear. The sketching process will help to identify what you want each visual to convey.


Evaluating and redrafting your storyboard enables you to make adjustments early while revisions are easy to do. Read your written script while looking at the storyboard and ask yourself:

  • Do my slides clearly display the key ideas from my presentation?
  • Is the structure of my presentation apparent in my slides?
  • Does my slideshow 'flow' from one slide to the next? Are there visual or verbal links to connect each section?
  • Is each slide as visually effective as I can make it?
  • Is the information presented in the most suitable way? (eg. would a picture be more effective than a description?)
  • Will the audience be able to understand it quickly and easily?

Make sure you complete your storyboard before you move to the computer.

 See next: Design tips for your presentation

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