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Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides

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Affiliation Biomedical Engineering and the Center for Public Health Genomics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America

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  • Kristen M. Naegle


Published: December 2, 2021

  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009554
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Citation: Naegle KM (2021) Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides. PLoS Comput Biol 17(12): e1009554. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009554

Copyright: © 2021 Kristen M. Naegle. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: The author received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The author has declared no competing interests exist.


The “presentation slide” is the building block of all academic presentations, whether they are journal clubs, thesis committee meetings, short conference talks, or hour-long seminars. A slide is a single page projected on a screen, usually built on the premise of a title, body, and figures or tables and includes both what is shown and what is spoken about that slide. Multiple slides are strung together to tell the larger story of the presentation. While there have been excellent 10 simple rules on giving entire presentations [ 1 , 2 ], there was an absence in the fine details of how to design a slide for optimal effect—such as the design elements that allow slides to convey meaningful information, to keep the audience engaged and informed, and to deliver the information intended and in the time frame allowed. As all research presentations seek to teach, effective slide design borrows from the same principles as effective teaching, including the consideration of cognitive processing your audience is relying on to organize, process, and retain information. This is written for anyone who needs to prepare slides from any length scale and for most purposes of conveying research to broad audiences. The rules are broken into 3 primary areas. Rules 1 to 5 are about optimizing the scope of each slide. Rules 6 to 8 are about principles around designing elements of the slide. Rules 9 to 10 are about preparing for your presentation, with the slides as the central focus of that preparation.

Rule 1: Include only one idea per slide

Each slide should have one central objective to deliver—the main idea or question [ 3 – 5 ]. Often, this means breaking complex ideas down into manageable pieces (see Fig 1 , where “background” information has been split into 2 key concepts). In another example, if you are presenting a complex computational approach in a large flow diagram, introduce it in smaller units, building it up until you finish with the entire diagram. The progressive buildup of complex information means that audiences are prepared to understand the whole picture, once you have dedicated time to each of the parts. You can accomplish the buildup of components in several ways—for example, using presentation software to cover/uncover information. Personally, I choose to create separate slides for each piece of information content I introduce—where the final slide has the entire diagram, and I use cropping or a cover on duplicated slides that come before to hide what I’m not yet ready to include. I use this method in order to ensure that each slide in my deck truly presents one specific idea (the new content) and the amount of the new information on that slide can be described in 1 minute (Rule 2), but it comes with the trade-off—a change to the format of one of the slides in the series often means changes to all slides.


  • PPT PowerPoint slide
  • PNG larger image
  • TIFF original image

Top left: A background slide that describes the background material on a project from my lab. The slide was created using a PowerPoint Design Template, which had to be modified to increase default text sizes for this figure (i.e., the default text sizes are even worse than shown here). Bottom row: The 2 new slides that break up the content into 2 explicit ideas about the background, using a central graphic. In the first slide, the graphic is an explicit example of the SH2 domain of PI3-kinase interacting with a phosphorylation site (Y754) on the PDGFR to describe the important details of what an SH2 domain and phosphotyrosine ligand are and how they interact. I use that same graphic in the second slide to generalize all binding events and include redundant text to drive home the central message (a lot of possible interactions might occur in the human proteome, more than we can currently measure). Top right highlights which rules were used to move from the original slide to the new slide. Specific changes as highlighted by Rule 7 include increasing contrast by changing the background color, increasing font size, changing to sans serif fonts, and removing all capital text and underlining (using bold to draw attention). PDGFR, platelet-derived growth factor receptor.


Rule 2: Spend only 1 minute per slide

When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-minute presentation should have somewhere around 20 slides. Also, frequently giving your audience new information to feast on helps keep them engaged. During practice, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on a slide, there’s too much for that one slide—it’s time to break up the content into multiple slides or even remove information that is not wholly central to the story you are trying to tell. Reduce, reduce, reduce, until you get to a single message, clearly described, which takes less than 1 minute to present.

Rule 3: Make use of your heading

When each slide conveys only one message, use the heading of that slide to write exactly the message you are trying to deliver. Instead of titling the slide “Results,” try “CTNND1 is central to metastasis” or “False-positive rates are highly sample specific.” Use this landmark signpost to ensure that all the content on that slide is related exactly to the heading and only the heading. Think of the slide heading as the introductory or concluding sentence of a paragraph and the slide content the rest of the paragraph that supports the main point of the paragraph. An audience member should be able to follow along with you in the “paragraph” and come to the same conclusion sentence as your header at the end of the slide.

Rule 4: Include only essential points

While you are speaking, audience members’ eyes and minds will be wandering over your slide. If you have a comment, detail, or figure on a slide, have a plan to explicitly identify and talk about it. If you don’t think it’s important enough to spend time on, then don’t have it on your slide. This is especially important when faculty are present. I often tell students that thesis committee members are like cats: If you put a shiny bauble in front of them, they’ll go after it. Be sure to only put the shiny baubles on slides that you want them to focus on. Putting together a thesis meeting for only faculty is really an exercise in herding cats (if you have cats, you know this is no easy feat). Clear and concise slide design will go a long way in helping you corral those easily distracted faculty members.

Rule 5: Give credit, where credit is due

An exception to Rule 4 is to include proper citations or references to work on your slide. When adding citations, names of other researchers, or other types of credit, use a consistent style and method for adding this information to your slides. Your audience will then be able to easily partition this information from the other content. A common mistake people make is to think “I’ll add that reference later,” but I highly recommend you put the proper reference on the slide at the time you make it, before you forget where it came from. Finally, in certain kinds of presentations, credits can make it clear who did the work. For the faculty members heading labs, it is an effective way to connect your audience with the personnel in the lab who did the work, which is a great career booster for that person. For graduate students, it is an effective way to delineate your contribution to the work, especially in meetings where the goal is to establish your credentials for meeting the rigors of a PhD checkpoint.

Rule 6: Use graphics effectively

As a rule, you should almost never have slides that only contain text. Build your slides around good visualizations. It is a visual presentation after all, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, on the flip side, don’t muddy the point of the slide by putting too many complex graphics on a single slide. A multipanel figure that you might include in a manuscript should often be broken into 1 panel per slide (see Rule 1 ). One way to ensure that you use the graphics effectively is to make a point to introduce the figure and its elements to the audience verbally, especially for data figures. For example, you might say the following: “This graph here shows the measured false-positive rate for an experiment and each point is a replicate of the experiment, the graph demonstrates …” If you have put too much on one slide to present in 1 minute (see Rule 2 ), then the complexity or number of the visualizations is too much for just one slide.

Rule 7: Design to avoid cognitive overload

The type of slide elements, the number of them, and how you present them all impact the ability for the audience to intake, organize, and remember the content. For example, a frequent mistake in slide design is to include full sentences, but reading and verbal processing use the same cognitive channels—therefore, an audience member can either read the slide, listen to you, or do some part of both (each poorly), as a result of cognitive overload [ 4 ]. The visual channel is separate, allowing images/videos to be processed with auditory information without cognitive overload [ 6 ] (Rule 6). As presentations are an exercise in listening, and not reading, do what you can to optimize the ability of the audience to listen. Use words sparingly as “guide posts” to you and the audience about major points of the slide. In fact, you can add short text fragments, redundant with the verbal component of the presentation, which has been shown to improve retention [ 7 ] (see Fig 1 for an example of redundant text that avoids cognitive overload). Be careful in the selection of a slide template to minimize accidentally adding elements that the audience must process, but are unimportant. David JP Phillips argues (and effectively demonstrates in his TEDx talk [ 5 ]) that the human brain can easily interpret 6 elements and more than that requires a 500% increase in human cognition load—so keep the total number of elements on the slide to 6 or less. Finally, in addition to the use of short text, white space, and the effective use of graphics/images, you can improve ease of cognitive processing further by considering color choices and font type and size. Here are a few suggestions for improving the experience for your audience, highlighting the importance of these elements for some specific groups:

  • Use high contrast colors and simple backgrounds with low to no color—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment.
  • Use sans serif fonts and large font sizes (including figure legends), avoid italics, underlining (use bold font instead for emphasis), and all capital letters—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment [ 8 ].
  • Use color combinations and palettes that can be understood by those with different forms of color blindness [ 9 ]. There are excellent tools available to identify colors to use and ways to simulate your presentation or figures as they might be seen by a person with color blindness (easily found by a web search).
  • In this increasing world of virtual presentation tools, consider practicing your talk with a closed captioning system capture your words. Use this to identify how to improve your speaking pace, volume, and annunciation to improve understanding by all members of your audience, but especially those with a hearing impairment.

Rule 8: Design the slide so that a distracted person gets the main takeaway

It is very difficult to stay focused on a presentation, especially if it is long or if it is part of a longer series of talks at a conference. Audience members may get distracted by an important email, or they may start dreaming of lunch. So, it’s important to look at your slide and ask “If they heard nothing I said, will they understand the key concept of this slide?” The other rules are set up to help with this, including clarity of the single point of the slide (Rule 1), titling it with a major conclusion (Rule 3), and the use of figures (Rule 6) and short text redundant to your verbal description (Rule 7). However, with each slide, step back and ask whether its main conclusion is conveyed, even if someone didn’t hear your accompanying dialog. Importantly, ask if the information on the slide is at the right level of abstraction. For example, do you have too many details about the experiment, which hides the conclusion of the experiment (i.e., breaking Rule 1)? If you are worried about not having enough details, keep a slide at the end of your slide deck (after your conclusions and acknowledgments) with the more detailed information that you can refer to during a question and answer period.

Rule 9: Iteratively improve slide design through practice

Well-designed slides that follow the first 8 rules are intended to help you deliver the message you intend and in the amount of time you intend to deliver it in. The best way to ensure that you nailed slide design for your presentation is to practice, typically a lot. The most important aspects of practicing a new presentation, with an eye toward slide design, are the following 2 key points: (1) practice to ensure that you hit, each time through, the most important points (for example, the text guide posts you left yourself and the title of the slide); and (2) practice to ensure that as you conclude the end of one slide, it leads directly to the next slide. Slide transitions, what you say as you end one slide and begin the next, are important to keeping the flow of the “story.” Practice is when I discover that the order of my presentation is poor or that I left myself too few guideposts to remember what was coming next. Additionally, during practice, the most frequent things I have to improve relate to Rule 2 (the slide takes too long to present, usually because I broke Rule 1, and I’m delivering too much information for one slide), Rule 4 (I have a nonessential detail on the slide), and Rule 5 (I forgot to give a key reference). The very best type of practice is in front of an audience (for example, your lab or peers), where, with fresh perspectives, they can help you identify places for improving slide content, design, and connections across the entirety of your talk.

Rule 10: Design to mitigate the impact of technical disasters

The real presentation almost never goes as we planned in our heads or during our practice. Maybe the speaker before you went over time and now you need to adjust. Maybe the computer the organizer is having you use won’t show your video. Maybe your internet is poor on the day you are giving a virtual presentation at a conference. Technical problems are routinely part of the practice of sharing your work through presentations. Hence, you can design your slides to limit the impact certain kinds of technical disasters create and also prepare alternate approaches. Here are just a few examples of the preparation you can do that will take you a long way toward avoiding a complete fiasco:

  • Save your presentation as a PDF—if the version of Keynote or PowerPoint on a host computer cause issues, you still have a functional copy that has a higher guarantee of compatibility.
  • In using videos, create a backup slide with screen shots of key results. For example, if I have a video of cell migration, I’ll be sure to have a copy of the start and end of the video, in case the video doesn’t play. Even if the video worked, you can pause on this backup slide and take the time to highlight the key results in words if someone could not see or understand the video.
  • Avoid animations, such as figures or text that flash/fly-in/etc. Surveys suggest that no one likes movement in presentations [ 3 , 4 ]. There is likely a cognitive underpinning to the almost universal distaste of pointless animations that relates to the idea proposed by Kosslyn and colleagues that animations are salient perceptual units that captures direct attention [ 4 ]. Although perceptual salience can be used to draw attention to and improve retention of specific points, if you use this approach for unnecessary/unimportant things (like animation of your bullet point text, fly-ins of figures, etc.), then you will distract your audience from the important content. Finally, animations cause additional processing burdens for people with visual impairments [ 10 ] and create opportunities for technical disasters if the software on the host system is not compatible with your planned animation.


These rules are just a start in creating more engaging presentations that increase audience retention of your material. However, there are wonderful resources on continuing on the journey of becoming an amazing public speaker, which includes understanding the psychology and neuroscience behind human perception and learning. For example, as highlighted in Rule 7, David JP Phillips has a wonderful TEDx talk on the subject [ 5 ], and “PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: A psychological analysis,” by Kosslyn and colleagues is deeply detailed about a number of aspects of human cognition and presentation style [ 4 ]. There are many books on the topic, including the popular “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds [ 11 ]. Finally, although briefly touched on here, the visualization of data is an entire topic of its own that is worth perfecting for both written and oral presentations of work, with fantastic resources like Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” [ 12 ] or the article “Visualization of Biomedical Data” by O’Donoghue and colleagues [ 13 ].


I would like to thank the countless presenters, colleagues, students, and mentors from which I have learned a great deal from on effective presentations. Also, a thank you to the wonderful resources published by organizations on how to increase inclusivity. A special thanks to Dr. Jason Papin and Dr. Michael Guertin on early feedback of this editorial.

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  • 3. Teaching VUC for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations. n.d. Available from: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/making-better-powerpoint-presentations/#baddeley .
  • 8. Creating a dyslexia friendly workplace. Dyslexia friendly style guide. nd. Available from: https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/advice/employers/creating-a-dyslexia-friendly-workplace/dyslexia-friendly-style-guide .
  • 9. Cravit R. How to Use Color Blind Friendly Palettes to Make Your Charts Accessible. 2019. Available from: https://venngage.com/blog/color-blind-friendly-palette/ .
  • 10. Making your conference presentation more accessible to blind and partially sighted people. n.d. Available from: https://vocaleyes.co.uk/services/resources/guidelines-for-making-your-conference-presentation-more-accessible-to-blind-and-partially-sighted-people/ .
  • 11. Reynolds G. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. 2nd ed. New Riders Pub; 2011.
  • 12. Tufte ER. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 2nd ed. Graphics Press; 2001.
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Body language and movement, verbal delivery.

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Effective presentation skills

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Robert Dolan, Effective presentation skills, FEMS Microbiology Letters , Volume 364, Issue 24, December 2017, fnx235, https://doi.org/10.1093/femsle/fnx235

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Most PhD's will have a presentation component during the interview process, as well as presenting their work at conferences. This article will provide guidance on how to develop relevant content and effectively deliver it to your audience.

Most organizations list communication skills as one of their most critical issues…and presentation skills are a large component of communications. Presentation skills are crucial to almost every aspect of academic/business life, from meetings, interviews and conferences to trade shows and job fairs. Often times, leadership and presentation skills go hand in hand. NACE Survey 2016 - Ability to communicate verbally (internally and externally) ranked 4.63/5.0 and was the #1 skill employers want. The information provided in this article is designed to provide tips and strategies for delivering an effective presentation, and one that aligns the speaker with the audience.

What type of speaker are you?

Facts and fears of public speaking.

Your blueprint for delivery.

Avoider —You do everything possible to escape from having to get in front of an audience.

Resister —You may have to speak, but you never encourage it.

Accepter —You’ll give presentations but don’t seek those opportunities. Sometimes you feel good about a presentation you gave.

Seeker —Looks for opportunities to speak. Finds the anxiety a stimulant that fuels enthusiasm during a presentation.

Public speaking can create anxiety and fear in many people. Dale Carnegie has a free e-book that provides tips and advice on how to minimize these fears www.dalecarnegie.com/Free-eBook

People are caught between their fear and the fact that many employers expect them to demonstrate good verbal communication skills.

Most interviews by PhD’s have a presentation component.

Academic interviews always have a presentation component.

If your job doesn’t demand presentation skills, odds are that you’ll need them in your next job

Develop your blueprint for delivery:

Information by itself can be boring, unless it's unique or unusual. Conveying it through stories, gestures and analogies make it interesting. A large portion of the impact of communications rests on how you look and sound, not only on what you say. Having good presentation skills allows you to make the most out of your first impression, especially at conferences and job interviews. As you plan your presentation put yourself in the shoes of the audience.

Values …What is important to them?

Needs …What information do they want?

Constraints …Understand their level of knowledge on the subject and target them appropriately.

Demographics …Size of audience and location may influence the presentation. For example, a large auditorium may be more formal and less personal than a presentation to your team or lab mates in a less formal setting.

Structure—Introduction, Content and Conclusion

Body Language and Movement

Verbal Delivery


Build rapport with audience (easier in a smaller less formal setting).

State preference for questions—during or after?

Set stage: provide agenda, objective and intended outcomes

Introduce yourself providing your name, role and function. Let the audience know the agenda, your objectives and set their expectations. Give them a reason to listen and make an explicit benefit statement, essentially what's in it for them. Finally, let them know how you will accomplish your objective by setting the agenda and providing an outline of what will be covered.

Deliver your message logically and structured.

Use appropriate anecdotes and examples.

Illustrate and emphasize key points by using color schemes or animations.

Establish credibility, possibly citing references or publications.

Structure your presentation to maximize delivery. Deliver the main idea and communicate to the audience what your intended outcome will be. Transition well through the subject matter and move through your presentation by using phrases such as; ‘now we will review…’ or ‘if there are no more questions, we will now move onto…’ Be flexible and on course. If needed, use examples not in the presentation to emphasize a point, but don’t get side tracked. Stay on course by using phrases such as ‘let's get back to…’ Occasionally, reiterate the benefits of the content and the main idea of your presentation.

Restate the main objective and key supporting points

For Q&A: ‘Who wants more details?’ (Not, ‘any questions?’)

Prompting for questions: ‘A question I often hear is…’

Summarize the main elements of your presentation as they relate to the original objective. If applicable, highlight a key point or crucial element for the audience to take away. Signal the end is near…‘to wrap up’ or ‘to sum up’. Clearly articulate the next steps, actions or practical recommendations. Thank the audience and solicit final questions.

Your non-verbal communications are key elements of your presentation. They are composed of open body posture, eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and space between you and the audience.

Stand firmly and move deliberately. Do not sway or shift.

Move at appropriate times during presentation (e.g. move during transitions or to emphasize a point).

Stand where you can see everyone and do not block the visuals/screen.

Decide on a resting position for hands (should feel and look comfortable).

Gestures should be natural and follow what you are saying.

Hand movement can emphasize your point.

Make gestures strong and crisp…ok to use both arms/hands.

Keep hands away from face.

When pointing to the screen, do so deliberately. Do not wave and face the audience to speak

Look at audience's faces, not above their heads.

If an interview or business meeting…look at the decision makers as well as everyone else.

Look at faces for 3–5 seconds and then move on to the next person.

Do not look away from the audience for more than 10 seconds.

Looking at a person keeps them engaged.

Looking at their faces tells you how your delivery and topic is being received by the audience. The audience's body language may show interest, acceptance, openness, boredom, hostility, disapproval and neutrality. Read the audience and adjust where and if appropriate to keep them engaged. For example, if they seem bored inject an interesting anecdote or story to trigger more interest. If they appear to disapprove, ask for questions or comments to better understand how you might adjust your delivery and content if applicable.

Use active rather than passive verbs.

Avoid technical terms, unless you know the audience is familiar with them.

Always use your own words and phrases.

Cut out jargon/slang words.

Look at your audience and use vocal techniques to catch their attention. Consider changing your pace or volume, use a longer than normal pause between key points, and change the pitch or inflection of your voice if needed. Consider taking a drink of water to force yourself to pause or slowdown. View the audience as a group of individual people, so address them as if they were a single person.

Tips for reducing anxiety

If you experience nervousness before your presentation, as most people do, consider the following.

Be Organized —Knowing that your presentation and thoughts are well organized will give you confidence.

Visualize —Imagine delivering your presentation with enthusiasm and leaving the room knowing that you did a good job.

Practice —All successful speakers rehearse their presentations. Either do it alone, with your team, or video tape yourself and review your performance after. Another tip is to make contact before your talk. If possible, speak with the audience before your presentation begins; however, not always possible with a large audience. Walk up to them and thank them in advance for inviting you to speak today.

Movement —Speakers who stand in one spot may experience tension. In order to relax, move in a purposeful manner and use upper body gestures to make points.

Eye Contact —Make your presentation a one-on-one conversation. Build rapport by making it personal and personable. Use words such as ‘ we ’ , ‘ our ’, ‘ us ’ . Eye contact helps you relax because you become less isolated from the audience.

Personal appearance

Clothes should fit well, not too tight. Consider wearing more professional business-like attire. Find two to three colors that work well for you. Conservative colors, such as black, blue, gray and brown, seem to be the safest bet when presenting or meeting someone for the first time in a professional setting. Depending upon the audience, a sport coat and well-matched dress slacks are fine. Generally, try to avoid bright reds, oranges and whites, since these tend to draw attention away from your face. Avoid jewelry that sparkles, dangles or makes noise. Use subtle accessories to compliment your outfit.

Other resources: www.toastmasters.org https://www.skillsyouneed.com/present/presentation-tips.html


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Seven tips for giving an engaging and memorable presentation

Effective and memorable presentations should be fun, and informative for the presenters and the learners. Engaging presenters stimulate connections with the audience. Excellent presentations not only provide information, but also give opportunities to apply new ideas during and after the talk to ‘real-life’ situations, and add relevant ‘take-home’ messages. 1 In this article we highlight educational techniques that can be used to enhance the impact of a presentation. Although all these techniques can be incorporated in the modified form into large plenary lectures, we suggest that the ‘think-pair-share’, ‘role-playing’, and ‘flipped classroom’ techniques may be more effective in smaller classroom settings.

Tip 1: Know your audience—before and during your talk

Every audience has a different level of interest, knowledge, and experience. A presentation about asthma should be different when given to patients compared with intensivists. The presenter should have a clear a priori idea of why the learners are coming to this lecture, what may motivate them, and what would be valuable to them . Whenever feasible, an assessment of the audience's needs is helpful for the presenter to focus on meaningful points. Sometimes needs-based assessments are prepared in advance, depending on the lecture or meeting, and this information may be available from the organisers of the meeting. However, if the information is not available beforehand, there are methods for collecting real-time assessments that are themselves engaging to learners. Another benefit of engaging audiences in this way is that an audience response system (ARS) can provide real-time feedback before, during, and after a presentation. 2 ARS can range from low-technology (hand raising), to newer generation ‘iClicker’ devices, or online websites such as Poll Everywhere, which can also be used to collect free-text responses. The audience's responses can help learners reinforce the importance of the topic, and provide a gauge for the presenter to customise subsequent information. Furthermore, research has shown that incorporation of multiple-choice questions to allow for ‘test-taking’ is an effective way of solidifying new knowledge. 2 Advantages of web-based ARS programs are that they are free, user-friendly, and accessible by various mobile devices. The potential disadvantages are reliability of Wi-Fi or cell phone carrier connectivity in a lecture theatre. In the absence of connectivity, an invitation to raise hands can engage participants, although without anonymity.

Tip 2: Tell a story

Stories connect people. A story that is personal to the speaker can evoke memories that are relatable and add concrete meaning to the presentation. 3 Consider starting your presentation with a story that shows why the topic is important to you. In addition, stories focus the audience on the speaker, rather than a slideshow. Even when the stories are not based on personal experiences, they can invoke learners to imagine themselves in similar situations applying knowledge to solve a problem. Descriptions of clinical cases that focus on initial presentations of patients allow learners to imagine seeing that patient and stimulate critical thinking. Experiencing the case vicariously makes the learning more memorable.

Tip 3: Trigger videos

Trigger videos are short (ideally 30 s to 3 min) audiovisual clips that represent a case or problem. Videos can be created using a handheld video recorder or smartphone, and edited using movie-editing software. Alternatively, videos can be found online and incorporated into presentations with appropriate attributions. Chosen well, trigger videos can present a thought-provoking dilemma that encourages discussion and debate. 4 They can alter the dynamics of a presentation. Success requires careful linking or embedding the videos into the presentation, making sure they play on the computer and projector, and confirming appropriate loudness of the audio settings.

Tip 4: Think-pair-share

When introducing a novel concept to a small group, consider using the ‘think-pair-share’ technique. In this technique, learners first think quietly about the challenging idea, then pair with neighbours to discuss, and then share their collective thoughts with the audience. 5 This technique gives the audience time to pause, think, and reflect on educational content. Encouraging the audience to come to work with the knowledge in a collaborative way incorporates experiential learning into your presentation. To be successful, allow for extra time in the presentation, ensure the audience's seating arrangement is conducive to small conversations, and display summarised ideas for referencing throughout the presentation. 5 , 6

Tip 5: Role play

When presenting an abstract concept that is controversial or thought-provoking, the use of scripted actors can be helpful. Both exemplary and poor examples can be demonstrated for topics such as obtaining informed consent, speaking up about safety concerns, or giving difficult feedback. Similarly, small group role-play can allow audience members to practice and experiment with actions and language with their peers. 7 The instructor should introduce the exercise in a way that helps assure psychological safety among learners, with an emphasis on deliberate practice rather than perfect performance.

Tip 6: ‘Flip’ the classroom

In situations where homework is assigned, consider ‘flipping’ the classroom experience where work is prepared by the learners before the teaching session. Preparatory work can comprise reading material or watching videos of lectures or demonstrations. This allows for more active collaborative learning, for example learners can solve a diagnostic challenge together, debate the pros and cons of a controversial topic, or practice skills. 8 The classroom experience is enriched by the interaction of many learners, rather than the perspective of a single presenter.

Tip 7: Applying the ‘take-home message’

Many are familiar with the framework of ‘ tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then summarise what you just said. ’ We advocate an additional component in the conclusion, where learners are challenged to commit to a change in their behaviour as a result of something they just learned: ‘ What is something you can do differently and better tomorrow or with your next patient as a result of this presentation? ’ Incorporating this question in the evaluation of a presentation can help facilitate behaviour change by having the learners write an example. Similarly, incentives can be offered for behaviour change: ‘ We have your email addresses, and with your permission we would like to follow-up with you in 2 weeks to see if you have any stories to share about applying this new information. We'll be collecting the responses and having a raffle to select one person to receive a gift card... ’ Not only does this provide an incentive to experimentation, but it also gives valuable and often heart-warming feedback to the presenter.

Dynamic educational techniques increase the engagement of the audience. We emphasise the importance of connecting with the learners and obtaining a commitment to apply the new knowledge for change and improvement. The extent to which these techniques are used will depend on the level of audience expertise, time constraints, and access to audiovisual aids. When used, they can result in a more memorable experience for both learners and presenters.

Declaration of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


Christine Mai MD MS-HPEd is assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and program director of the Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her clinical and research interests are in simulation education and graduate medical education.

Rebecca Minehart MD MS-HPEd is assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and program director of the Obstetric Anesthesia Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.

May Pian-Smith MD is associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and director of quality and safety for the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Matrix codes: 1H02, 2H02, 3J02

PDF presentations: How to present a PDF effectively.

A man gives a professional PDF presentation to a room of people using Adobe Acrobat.

Easily include PDF documents in presentations. Learn how to present PDF files and convert them into Microsoft PowerPoint slideshows.

Learn how to present a PDF in a way that can engage your audience and share your ideas effectively, no matter what tools you have available. You may have to share information from a PDF document when you’re getting ready to give a presentation at work or school. But what’s the best way to display a PDF if you want to keep your audience interested? Read on to learn two ways to give an engaging and eye-catching PDF presentation.

How to present a PDF.

You have a few options for presenting your PDF slideshow. PDF presentation mode is available on most PDF editing software but not necessarily in a PDF viewer. You can also, of course, convert your PDF to a PowerPoint presentation. The simplest way to present your PDF is to share your screen or project the view of your PDF from a free PDF viewer. Check out the instructions for these various methods below.

Option 1: Use PDF presentation mode.

If you use PDF presentation mode, you won’t have to convert your PDF and worry about formatting issues. You will also have preference options as you learn how to put a PDF in presentation mode. Follow these steps:

  • Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat .
  • Select File > Preferences > Full Screen View to select options for your presentation.
  • Select View > Full Screen.

The options will allow you to decide things like whether you will time your slides and which transitions you want between slides. You can also use a similar process with Preview on your Apple device.

How to present a PDF document

With Adobe Acrobat online services, it’s fast and easy to convert PDFs into PowerPoint presentations. Simply follow these three steps:

  • Navigate to Acrobat online services and launch the Convert PDF to PowerPoint tool.
  • Drag and drop your PDF file into the converter or click Select A File to locate it.
  • Download your presentation once the converter has finished.

You can now open the slideshow as you would any ordinary PowerPoint presentation. And as a bonus, you can edit the text, images, and formatting directly in PowerPoint.

Option 3: Present a PDF using a PDF reader window.

The easiest way to include a PDF file in your presentation is simply by using your PDF reader . Most video call applications let you share your screen and display the PDF to others. If you’re at an in-person meeting, you can also project the PDF reader onto a screen.

To share your screen with your PDF reader in a call, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Open your PDF in your PDF reader, and leave it open.
  • Begin your video call.
  • Select the screen-sharing option.
  • Select the PDF reader as the screen you’d like to share.

Although letting others see your PDF reader may be easy, it isn’t always the most optimal way to give a presentation. It can be slow to scroll through the pages of the PDF file — plus, depending on the orientation, you may also not be able to display an entire page while keeping text at a legible size.

Why create PDF presentations vs. other methods?

PDF slideshows have several advantages. You might be creating a presentation from a PDF as your original document. In that case, there’s no need to complicate your process and convert your PDF into another format. Unlike other presentation methods like PowerPoint, you can present your PDF on any device. PDF presentations also tend to use less storage. Additionally, since one of the main purposes of a PDF is to retain the formatting, you can trust that your fonts and structure will remain stable for your presentation.

What is PDF presentation mode?

PDF presentation mode is the simplest option for presenting a PDF. It doesn’t require converting your file or downloading extra software. It allows you to present your PDF in full screen and use your keys to toggle between pages. You can create transitions between your pages and even time your slides. One limitation of PDF presentation mode is that it doesn’t support videos.

Can I see my notes in PDF presentation mode?

While putting your PDF in full-screen presentation mode shows your slides neatly, it doesn’t show your presenter notes separately on your personal device. If you need to have notes on hand, you can always print them out or give yourself concise notes as reminders on the slides themselves. If you have converted a PowerPoint presentation to a PDF, your notes won’t be lost. They’ll be available for you to look at under Options > Publish > Notes pages.

Tips to help improve your PDF presentation skills.

Presenting in front of a group, large or small, can sometimes feel daunting. Here are some quick tips to improve your PDF presentation skills:

  • Make your slides visually appealing. Color and images help with visual appeal. Visuals will help keep your audience engaged.
  • Keep your slides simple. If you stick to one idea per slide, it will be easier for everyone to follow.
  • Don’t crowd your slides with text. Offer text only to remind your audience of the key points of your presentation. Avoid using full sentences in the slides. Your audience is there to listen to you, not to read your slides.
  • Rehearse your presentation until it feels natural to give it. It will be easier for your audience to learn if you seem comfortable during your presentation.

More resources on PDFs.

PDF is one of the most relied-upon formats in professional settings, so using it directly for a presentation will be very convenient. Now that you’ve learned how to present a PDF effectively, here are more resources to work with PDFs:

  • Learn how to get the most out of a presentation appendix .
  • Learn how to compress a PowerPoint .
  • Learn how to make a PDF interactive .
  • You can also convert a PDF to Google Slides and present from there.

Explore what more you can do with Adobe Acrobat online services to easily convert, edit, and sign PDFs - and more.

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Free, Downloadable Lecture Slides for Educators and Students

Published on October 8, 2021 by Tegan George and Julia Merkus. Revised on July 23, 2023.

We have adapted several of our most popular articles into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about a variety of academic topics.

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How to Give a Killer Presentation

  • Chris Anderson

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For more than 30 years, the TED conference series has presented enlightening talks that people enjoy watching. In this article, Anderson, TED’s curator, shares five keys to great presentations:

  • Frame your story (figure out where to start and where to end).
  • Plan your delivery (decide whether to memorize your speech word for word or develop bullet points and then rehearse it—over and over).
  • Work on stage presence (but remember that your story matters more than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous).
  • Plan the multimedia (whatever you do, don’t read from PowerPoint slides).
  • Put it together (play to your strengths and be authentic).

According to Anderson, presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance—not style. In fact, it’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. So if your thinking is not there yet, he advises, decline that invitation to speak. Instead, keep working until you have an idea that’s worth sharing.

Lessons from TED

A little more than a year ago, on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, some colleagues and I met a 12-year-old Masai boy named Richard Turere, who told us a fascinating story. His family raises livestock on the edge of a vast national park, and one of the biggest challenges is protecting the animals from lions—especially at night. Richard had noticed that placing lamps in a field didn’t deter lion attacks, but when he walked the field with a torch, the lions stayed away. From a young age, he’d been interested in electronics, teaching himself by, for example, taking apart his parents’ radio. He used that experience to devise a system of lights that would turn on and off in sequence—using solar panels, a car battery, and a motorcycle indicator box—and thereby create a sense of movement that he hoped would scare off the lions. He installed the lights, and the lions stopped attacking. Soon villages elsewhere in Kenya began installing Richard’s “lion lights.”

  • CA Chris Anderson is the curator of TED.

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Landiolol and Organ Failure in Patients With Septic Shock : The STRESS-L Randomized Clinical Trial

  • 1 University Hospitals of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 2 Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 3 Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
  • 4 Division of Anaesthetics, Pain Medicine & Intensive Care, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 5 Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 6 Kadoorie Centre for Critical Care Research, Nuffield Division of Anaesthesia, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 7 Regional Intensive Care Unit, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Belfast, United Kingdom
  • 8 The Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
  • 9 Centre for Intensive Care Medicine, Department of Medicine and Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College, London, United Kingdom
  • 10 Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 11 University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gower Street, London, United Kingdom
  • 12 Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Taunton, United Kingdom
  • 13 Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Editorial β-Blockers in Patients With Sepsis Steven M. Hollenberg, MD JAMA

Question   Does β-blockade for up to 14 days with landiolol reduce organ failure as measured by the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score for critically ill patients with tachycardia and septic shock treated with high-dose norepinephrine for more than 24 hours?

Findings   In this randomized clinical trial enrolling 126 patients with tachycardia and established septic shock (treated with norepinephrine for >24 hours), the administration of landiolol intravenously to reduce heart rate to less than 95/min compared with standard care did not significantly decrease organ failure as measured by the mean SOFA score (8.8 vs 8.1, respectively) in the 14 days after randomization.

Meaning   These results do not support the use of landiolol for managing patients with tachycardia treated with norepinephrine for established septic shock.

Importance   Patients with septic shock undergo adrenergic stress, which affects cardiac, immune, inflammatory, and metabolic pathways. β-Blockade may attenuate the adverse effects of catecholamine exposure and has been associated with reduced mortality.

Objectives   To assess the efficacy and safety of landiolol in patients with tachycardia and established septic shock requiring prolonged (>24 hours) vasopressor support.

Design, Setting, and Participants   An open-label, multicenter, randomized trial involving 126 adults (≥18 years) with tachycardia (heart rate ≥95/min) and established septic shock treated for at least 24 hours with continuous norepinephrine (≥0.1 μg/kg/min) in 40 UK National Health Service intensive care units. The trial ran from April 2018 to December 2021, with early termination in December 2021 due to a signal of possible harm.

Intervention   Sixty-three patients were randomized to receive standard care and 63 to receive landiolol infusion.

Main Outcomes and Measures   The primary outcome was the mean Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score from randomization through 14 days. Secondary outcomes included mortality at days 28 and 90 and the number of adverse events in each group.

Results   The trial was stopped prematurely on the advice of the independent data monitoring committee because it was unlikely to demonstrate benefit and because of possible harm. Of a planned 340 participants, 126 (37%) were enrolled (mean age, 55.6 years [95% CI, 52.7 to 58.5 years]; 58.7% male). The mean (SD) SOFA score in the landiolol group was 8.8 (3.9) compared with 8.1 (3.2) in the standard care group (mean difference [MD], 0.75 [95% CI, −0.49 to 2.0]; P  = .24). Mortality at day 28 after randomization in the landiolol group was 37.1% (23 of 62) and 25.4% (16 of 63) in the standard care group (absolute difference, 11.7% [95% CI, −4.4% to 27.8%]; P  = .16). Mortality at day 90 after randomization was 43.5% (27 of 62) in the landiolol group and 28.6% (18 of 63) in the standard care group (absolute difference, 15% [95% CI, −1.7% to 31.6%]; P  = .08). There were no differences in the number of patients having at least one adverse event.

Conclusion and Relevance   Among patients with septic shock with tachycardia and treated with norepinephrine for more than 24 hours, an infusion of landiolol did not reduce organ failure measured by the SOFA score over 14 days from randomization. These results do not support the use of landiolol for managing tachycardia among patients treated with norepinephrine for established septic shock.

Trial Registration   EU Clinical Trials Register Eudra CT: 2017-001785-14 ; isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN12600919

  • Editorial β-Blockers in Patients With Sepsis JAMA

Read More About

Whitehouse T , Hossain A , Perkins GD, et al. Landiolol and Organ Failure in Patients With Septic Shock : The STRESS-L Randomized Clinical Trial . JAMA. 2023;330(17):1641–1652. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.20134

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