Ten Essentials for Creating a Compelling Scientific PowerPoint Presentation

December 12, 2022

Heming Nelson

We produced our very first webcast over 20 years ago, and no surprise, It was a scientific presentation. Since that time we have recorded or broadcast hundreds of presentations. We've had the opportunity to see some great presentations, and some not-so-great presentations. Below are ten best practices that we’ve identified to elevate your presentation and make sure that your audience remains captivated and interested by your scientific discourse.

1. Start with a Compelling Title Slide
The first impression matters. Create a title slide that is visually appealing and clearly conveys the essence of your presentation. Include a concise title, your name, affiliation, and any relevant logos. Keep it clean and professional to set the tone for the rest of your slides.

2. Follow a Consistent Design Theme
Consistency is key to a polished presentation. Choose a cohesive design theme that includes a unified color palette and readable fonts (this is worth repeating, don’t use tiny fonts!).

3. Simplify and Clarify
Related to the last point, avoid clutter and information overload. Each slide should convey a single idea or concept. Use bullet points, visuals, and concise text to communicate your message effectively. Simplicity not only aids comprehension but also prevents your audience from feeling overwhelmed.

4. Engaging Visuals Over Text
Utilize visuals to tell your story. Charts, graphs, images, and diagrams can simplify complex data and enhance understanding. Strive for a balance between visuals and text, with the emphasis on imagery. Visual engagement is crucial for sustaining audience interest.

5. Tell a Story with Structure
Organize your presentation in a logical flow. Introduce the problem or context, present your research methods, showcase results, and conclude with impactful insights. A well-structured narrative guides your audience through your scientific journey, making it easier for them to follow and appreciate your work.

6. Font Legibility and Size
We are going to repeat this again, but only because it's probably the single biggest problem we see. Opt for legible fonts that are easy to read, even from a distance. Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Calibri are often recommended. Maintain a consistent font size, ensuring that text is large enough for everyone in the audience, including those at the back of the room, to read comfortably.

7. Use Animations Thoughtfully
Animations can add a dynamic element to your presentation, but use them judiciously. Avoid excessive transitions and animations that may distract from your message. Employ subtle animations to reveal information gradually, keeping the audience focused on the current point of discussion.

8. Practice Cohesive Branding
If applicable, incorporate branding elements from your institution or research project. This adds a professional touch and reinforces your association with reputable entities. Ensure that branding elements complement your overall design theme without overshadowing your content.

9. Check for Consistent Data Formatting
If your presentation includes data, ensure consistent formatting across charts and graphs. Use the same scale, color schemes, and legends to maintain visual coherence. Consistent formatting not only improves the aesthetics but also aids in the accurate interpretation of your data.

10. Prepare for Q&A
Dedicate a final slide for potential questions from the audience. This shows preparedness and encourages audience interaction. Anticipate possible questions related to your research and be ready to provide concise and informative answers, further enhancing your credibility.

A well-crafted PowerPoint presentation is a powerful tool in the arsenal of a scientist presenting their research. By implementing these ten best practices, you can create a visually compelling and intellectually stimulating presentation that keeps your audience engaged and interested throughout. Remember, the goal is not just to convey information but to foster a connection between your research and your audience, leaving a lasting impression that extends beyond the confines of the presentation room.

For more on the topic, here is a 10-minute video we created for one of our clients that covers much of this material, and more.