Academic presentations – design and content advice

Many books and websites give advice on creating effective presentations. In academia, the challenge often is not to distort complex scientific information while keeping slides short and easy to understand.

Here is how some of the most common “presentation rules” can be adapted to an academic purpose:

1. Limit bullet points/text per slide and break complex information up into multiple slides.

2. Images can say more than words, but avoid stock images that do not highlight your message. Use high-quality images (if any) and resize them, frame them, or present them in tile galleries to make the presentation visually appealing.

3. Use appropriate charts to illustrate project developments or research results. Use simple graphs rather than complex tables.

4. Use colour well, respecting your institution’s corporate design as well as conventions in your subject area.

5. Highlight keywords and important figures.

6. Choose fonts carefully. Make sure your text is big enough to be read from the back, avoid serif fonts, and choose fonts that match the academic nature of your talk.

7. Let your audience listen to you, not read the screen.

8. Do not forget to dedicate a slide to your team/collaborators and your funding institutions.

9. Make sure your audience knows where to find you online. Give them your email address and mention your social media accounts.

Business professionals agree that every slide in your presentation ought to be a visual advertisement. Although academics are – in most cases – not selling products, explaining research to diverse audiences has become a major concern. As research teams and conferences are often international and interdisciplinary, presentations should always unable non-experts to grasp the overall objectives of your project. Last but not least, reaching out to the general public is now an integral part of university policy, and funding institutions demand a serious commitment to science communication or even public engagement.

Further reading:

  • IvyPanda Education Blog: “The Effectiveness of MS PowerPoint: Take Your Presentation to the Next Level”:

Follow the IvyPanda editing team on Twitter: @Yvonne McQuarrie

  • Mateusz Gargula, “8 Golden Rules for a Great Presentation”:

  • Mihai Budiu, “Some Rules for Making a Presentation”:

  • GCF Global, “Simple rules for better PowerPoint presentations”:


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