Kirsop Labs

Skills development for science students everywhere

Creating your first presentation

So the time has finally come. You need to prepare and deliver your first presentation and you want to impress your audience. At least, you want to look as professional as possible. But how do you achieve all of this when you’re inexperienced and don’t know where to begin?

The following steps should help you with creating your own successful PowerPoint presentation.

1. Do Your Research

Make sure you’ve done all the necessary research on your topic first, and summarised all the information you want to use. Then think about how you want your template to look. People often like to be creative and relate it to the topic being presented. Creative is fine, just don’t overdo it! And never, ever change template between slides. Stick to one style only.

Or you can just opt for a simple and basic template. This is actually preferable for science presentations. Students often make the mistake of using too elaborate designs which make the slides look too busy. It can also be distracting for the audience. (See Dr Kirsop’s comments on this in his article here).

2. Choose Your Slide Design and Create Your Layout

The easiest way is simply to use the slide formats supplied in PowerPoint although there are now alternatives. For a professional and simple look you can go to where you can download free templates if you register. Some other useful links for free PowerPoint templates are:



Once you’ve chosen your template, set up your design and layout. Some templates give layout and design suggestions for you. Make sure that you choose colours which are clearly visible for the audience. Pale text on a dark background, or dark text on a pale background work best for clarity.

A good point is never to use red and green together as most colour-blind people cannot distinguish between them. Consider what people will actually see before colour-coding.

3. Create a Table of Contents

This will be your first main slide after the one showing the title of your talk. Your Table of Contents slide informs the audience what is about to be discussed, and in what order to expect the information. Always introduce your Contents at the start of your talk, to make it clear to the audience what they about to hear.

4. Structuring the Main Body

For the body of the presentation, you can set titles and subtitles to structure your template well.

  • Use bullet points or very short sentences. Try not to overfill your template with too much information.
  • Use the white space. Don’t just have a few bullet points in the middle of a slide with lots of empty space around them.
  • Make it clear, brief and informative with only the major points highlighted that you want to tell your audience about.

Remember that the majority of the information comes from the speaker, when you’ll present and elaborate on your main points to the audience. It doesn’t all have to be there on the slides. Your slides are there to support you, and to guide the audience through the presentation. Take care not to overwhelm them (the audience) by using slides that contain too much information.

  • Use pictures, charts, tables, diagrams etc., to strengthen your statements and make sure that you reference them if they’re not your own.

You can include effects on your slides or from slide to slide, but do be careful that it doesn’t look like a science fiction movie at the end. Again, Dr Kirsop makes important comments on this in his article. It’s advisable to listen to experienced staff, as these are the people who will be judging your performance and your ability to communicate your science.

5. And Finally…

Your final slide might include a list of references unless you’ve used them throughout the main body, and some people use a “Thank You for Listening” slide as a matter of courtesy. It’s just nice to thank the audience for coming along and listening to what you have to say.

So you are done!

Good luck and I hope this helps you with your first (or next) presentation.

Posted under: Communication Skills

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