The perfect presentation checklist – tips and tricks to wow your teacher every time

Canva - College Student Making Presentation 2

Imagine being able to give a professional presentation to an audience that hangs on your every word. From start to finish, they’re captivated. Completely engaged and intrigued by what you’ve got to say. How great would that be?

If you’ve got a presentation to deliver, I’m sure you think it’d be pretty darn great. After all, you don’t want to give a presentation that people don’t enjoy or, even worse, think is boring.

But how can you capture attention, wow your audience, and create a presentation that leaves a lasting impression? Well, we're glad you asked.

In this article, we're going to outline nine ways you can use professional presentation skills, and some design tricks, to win over your audience and ensure you deliver a great presentation.

01. Cover one topic per slide

It’s common to try and put as much information as you can into your slides. You want to share as much you can, and cover as much of the topic as possible.

But instead of trying put everything on one slide, try to spread all of the information out across multiple slides.

This is a technique straight from the playbook of big companies like Apple, who give live presentations to thousands of people (and millions through video streaming).

When Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a presentation, he makes sure to make just one clear point per slide. That means one piece of data, one quote, one fact, or one statement. Nothing more. Why does he do that?

Because it makes it easier for your audience to pay attention to what’s happening right in front of them. That is, the point you’re talking about.

See, it’s hard for someone to read the text and listen intently at the same time. They have to split their attention between the two tasks. Meaning they’ll either miss what you said, or they’ll overlook what you wrote.

Let us show you an example of what we mean. Which of these would be easiest for an audience member to read, without losing focus on what you’re saying?

The second one! It’s one short-sharp-sentence that’s easy to read.

Using this in your presentations is pretty simple. For every data point, quote, piece of information or bullet point, create a separate slide for it. People won’t count how many slides you’ve got, and they’ll be too engrossed in what you’re saying to think about it!

If you want to create powerful, one point per slide presentation, you could try getting started with our Moon Design Studio Co. template:

Moon Design Studio Co. - Presentation

02. Keep the amount of text small...

The less text you use per slide, the better.
Try to summarize the piece of information you want to share into a short sentence. Or, at the most, a paragraph of three to four sentences.

These short summaries are much easier to remember and help you stick to the “one point, one slide” rule you just read about.

A great example of this is our Simple Modern Presentation template:

Simple Modern Presentation

Can you see how, although it’s just a few sentences long, it’s easy to understand the topic?

This is helpful for your audience members who are trying to take notes, too. That one sentence can be the “hook” they write down, which allows the to remember everything else you’ve said.

03. But make your fonts large

Small fonts are hard to read. This makes your presentation less accessible to the people in the room because people have to strain to make out what you’ve written.

This distracts them from what you’re saying while they try and figure out what’s written on the slide behind you.

Although your text may look big enough to read on your computer screen, it may look really small when it’s projected to your audience. That’s why Guy Kawasaki recommends you use at least a 30px font size in your presentations.

That means everyone in the room can read what you’ve written, without struggling, and allows them to keep their focus where it should be - on you and the topic you’re talking about.

04. Customize your slides

Your slides and their design are the body language of your presentation. And adding a custom design can help you leave your mark on an audience.

The problem is, most office software only lets you create boring, standard slides that look like they’re straight out of a business meeting in 1998. They’re not exactly interesting or enjoyable to look at, are they?

You want a slide that has a little personality. That’s pleasant to look at and shows your presentation is worth sticking around for.

You know, something like this:

Turquoise Icons Investment Pitch Deck 101 Startup Presentation

Well, that’s where Canva can help you. We’ve got an entire library of beautiful slide designs that can be edited and updated to fit your presentation.

Why not begin by using our either our Goal Setting or Black Triangles templates?

05. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Practice makes perfect.

The more you rehearse your presentation, the more natural it will feel, and the less nervous you’ll feel before speaking in front of people.

Get to know your script or outline off by heart. That way you’ll be able to make all of the points you wanted to make, and have a structure to fall back on if you feel like you’ve gone off track. When you’ve already done it a couple of dozen times, the words will just roll off your tongue!

This also allows you to figure out the timings of your presentation. Which can be important, when you consider the next tip.

06. Follow the 10 minute rule

Your audience is only human and has a limited attention span.

Research at The University of Washington School of Medicine found presentation audiences start to lose their focus around the 10-minute mark. In fact, it plummets to pretty much zero.

Don’t worry! That doesn’t mean they’ll be asleep for the rest of your presentation. You just have to do something around every 10 minutes to grab their attention again. This brings them back into the room and makes your presentation more engaging and enjoyable.

When you’re creating your presentation and working out your timings, try to add something that will shake-up the room at the end of these 10-minute blocks. For example, you could:

  1. Hand over to your co-speaker
  2. Tell a joke
  3. Show an interesting video
  4. Add a funny or thought-provoking meme
  5. Ask for audience interaction
  6. Change topics

Don’t worry if you’re a minute or two either side; you can aim for every eight to twelve minutes. The main aim here is to change the pace and recoup that attention a few times throughout your presentation.

You can create lots of engaging images to grab attention using Canva’s editing tools. You can upload a meme and edit it to add your text. Or, you can create an eye-catching graphic from scratch to stun your audience.

Fortunately, our presentation template collection is filled with stunning graphics to inspire you:

Presentation templates

07. Tell your story visually

Did you know that humans process visual data 60,000 times quicker than verbal information? Or, that they can digest an entire image in as little as 13 milliseconds? (Yeah, that’s pretty quick!)

Some researchers also believe people remember more information when words and images are used together. But why are we telling you this?

Because you can use visual information to help you create a more professional looking presentation. By telling stories, and making points, using images and the words you’re speaking, you can create a fun and engaging presentation that’s easy to remember.

Someone who does this brilliantly is James Veitch. You can see in his TED Talk below that he uses pictures from his childhood, and screenshots of email, to hold the audience’s attention:

If you’re sticking to the “one point, one slide” tip that you read before, this can be easily done in a few ways. You could add:

08. Use humor

Have you ever had to endure a lecture or presentation that was all facts and no fun? You know, the ones that somehow make each second feel like an entire semester. It’s the worst, right?

Well one of the best ways to avoid that happening is to use humor in your presentation. It’s engaging, increases your likeability, and can make even the most uncomfortable subjects easy to listen to.

Take this TED Talk by Andrew Tarvin for example. He sprinkles humor through his presentation to keep the audience engaged and listening to what he’s saying. And, it’s pretty hard not to like the guy:

He also points out in the video that you don’t need to be a stand-up comedian or a naturally funny person, either. The idea isn’t to get people falling out of their chairs laughing at your jokes.

Instead, it’s about making it light-hearted and fun to watch. And, if you’re following the 10-minute rule, it’s a great way to capture your audience’s attention again.

09. Speak slowly and clearly

When you first get up in front of a crowd, it’s common to speak too quickly. (most people just go bright red and triple the number of words they say per second.)

But your presentation will be better received if you slow down, use pauses, and speak a little slower than you would in everyday conversation.

Although this can feel awkward at times - two seconds of silence can feel like a lifetime when you’re giving a presentation - your audience will hardly notice it. And, it gives them the chance to take notes, think about what you’re saying, and understand what you just said.

Your perfect presentation checklist

We hope you’re already starting to feel more comfortable with your presentation, and you can see how all of these professional techniques can come in handy.

Before you go, we just wanted to share with you a quick presentation checklist you can use, to help you remember these techniques. Either print it out, or keep this part of the article open while you create!

  1. Use one topic per slide
  2. Keep the amount of text small
  3. But make the fonts large
  4. Customize your slides
  5. Rehearse as much as possible
  6. Add a change of pace every 10 minutes
  7. Tell your story visually
  8. Use humor
  9. Speak slowly and clearly

If you can hit all nine of these points, you’re sure to give a professional presentation to remember!