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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here:

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Nov 21, 2019

Episode 75 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores five more ways teachers and trainers can improve their presentation slides.


In episode 45 of The Teaching Space Podcast I explored ten ways teachers and trainers could improve their presentation slides. I recommend you listen to the episode or read the show notes. As a short recap, I covered this:

  1. Use a consistent design
  2. Use images carefully
  3. Pay attention to fonts
  4. Avoid text heavy slides
  5. Try shortlinks
  6. Embed video
  7. Keep animation minimal
  8. Use audience participation
  9. Use QR codes to share slides
  10. Try GIFs

My main professional development focus this year is how I use slides (and handouts) to support learning; there’s some dual coding theory to explore here. I’ve already learned so much through reading and experimentation that I thought a follow-up episode might be in order. So, here it is.

Five More Ways to Improve Your Presentations

1. Branding

This one could be controversial! Some time ago, my College introduced slide templates featuring the organisation’s logo and social media icons and handles. The intentions were good. I understand the benefits of consistent presentation to the outside world (wearing my corporate hat). Another benefit was that for some colleagues, decision fatigue was reduced, along with the use of distracting fonts…

Without questioning, I started using the templates. I also spent time switching old presentations I still used over to the new format.

Then I attended Oliver Caviglioli’s talk at the ReserachEd National Conference in September and he prompted some questions:

  • Is a logo really needed on all slides? Do my learners need reminding where they are?
  • Do I want my learners to interrupt their learning to follow the organisation on social media?

The answer is no.

Marking guru, Seth Godin, recommends no more than six words per slide:

“No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.”

I’m not quite there yet, but working towards this goal. The reason I bring it up, though, is that the words used in our logo and social media handles totalled far more than six. The words, and indeed the images, were superfluous and distracting.

2. Purpose

What is a slide deck for? It is not a teleprompter for the teacher or trainer. Be honest, do you use your slides this way? I did. That’s why they were so wordy!

Your slides should support and enhance the learning process. Fewer words - more images. Dual coding theory makes an excellent case for this approach, as mentioned briefly in episode 74.

If you have wordy slides and insist on reading the words out to your learners, you will likely encounter split-attention effect. This is when your learners are required to split their attention between, for example, reading information from a slide and listening to you read the information out at the same time. This results in increased cognitive load and is likely to have a negative effect on learning as information does not enter working, and ultimately long-term memory.

3. Presentation Notes

“But Martine, I want my learners to take away more than a set of slides with just a few words and pictures on…” I hear you and agree some learners will want more after the session.

Why not create presentation notes as a separate (but beautifully formatted) document? You can use them in the session and learners can take them away afterwards.

You could argue that “speaker’s notes” in PowerPoint or Google Slides serve this purpose, however, if your learners follow along with your presentation digitally, they could access your speaker’s notes and become distracted. Speaker’s notes have limited formatting options too.

4. Grid System

When deciding on your slide layout, consider using an invisible grid to align everything. PowerPoint and Keynote have this feature built in. You can add gridlines manually in Google Slides.

A grid allows you to create visual consistency, which is pleasing to the eye. Do vary the pattern though, to create interest. According to Oliver Caviglioli:

”Alignment is very important in bringing order and harmony to how the information is presented.”

5. No Bullets

I’m challenging myself to stop using bullet points on slides. Bullets are usually a sign of slides being used a prompt for the teacher or trainer.

Seth Godin reminds as that “slides are free”. Rather than having, say, six points on one slide, six slides could be used. That would equate to one point per slide (you’d not need a bullet point in that case would you?) A short, punchy sentence would suffice. Or even, shock horror, just a picture.

Again, I’m not there yet with this approach. But I am keeping it in mind when I produce a slide deck and I’m seeing positive reactions.

Wrap Up

I hoped you enjoyed this episode; I also hope it challenge your practice. I am certainly not an expert in this area, however, I am really enjoying exploring it and experimenting. I’d love to know about your experience too.


Support the Show

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Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

  1. Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post.
  2. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room.
  3. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me).
  4. Contacting me via The Teaching Space website:
  5. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.