[Pedagogy-list] Thoughts on Designing and Using PowerPoint

Hocutt, Daniel dhocutt at richmond.edu
Fri Sep 14 15:47:55 EDT 2018

Dick, I appreciate your feedback. I’ve been influenced in my presentation style by Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (you can Google a PDF of the 27-page booklet), but I freely admit that Tufte’s arguments have shortcomings (see the Technical Communication article “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Slides are Not All Evil<https://www.jstor.org/stable/43089160>” for a summary of those shortcomings along with some guidelines for slide design).

As we consider best practices for teaching adults, one of the primary take-aways I’ve absorbed is that instruction should address multiple modes and its methods be tied to accessible, real-world experience. Slides can and should reinforce instructional objectives and content that is also covered by textual, aural, oral, and video modes. As important, slides in the classroom should reinforce design and communication strategies applicable to the fields in which students do and will work.

I asked Dick to share the materials he uses in his classroom, and he willingly did with permission to share with CoP members. I’ve attached them as a resource. As Dick noted in his comments below, these resources come from decades of experience presenting in corporate setting, and they are his opinions with which not everyone will agree. I’m among those who doesn’t entirely agree, if for no other reason than my deep-seated dislike for Times New Roman in anything other than print. (And even then, it bores me.) Nevertheless, the principles behind these resources are rock solid: Our goal in using any technological resource like Powerpoint should be in service to sound instructional methods, and should enhance, rather than obscure, ease of communication.


Daniel L. Hocutt, R’92 & G’98
Web Manager & Adjunct Professor
School of Professional & Continuing Studies
Special Programs Building 215
University of Richmond, VA 23173
o. (804) 287-6658 f. (804) 289-8138
dhocutt at richmond.edu<mailto:dhocutt at richmond.edu>

Community Coordinator,
SPCS Pedagogy Community of Practice<http://blog.richmond.edu/pedagogy>

From: <pedagogy-list-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of "rwlceo at aol.com" <rwlceo at aol.com>
Reply-To: "SPCS Community of Practice: Pedagogy" <pedagogy-list at richmond.edu>
Date: Monday, September 10, 2018 at 9:30 AM
To: "pedagogy-list at richmond.edu" <pedagogy-list at richmond.edu>
Subject: [Pedagogy-list] Thoughts on Designing and Using PowerPoint

I believe the Pedagogy of Community Practice (PCP) will be of great value to our School.  Thus, I watched the PCP presentation at our faculty meeting with great interest.  However, in my opinion, I noted the need for some possible improvement of the actual PowerPoint presentation.  As a background, I have been designing and using slides for 50 years, first as a training manager at the 3-M company in St Paul, MN; second as the founder of a successful firm that designed and produced leadership training materials that incorporated slides; and finally as a teacher hear at UR.  The following are some opinions and basic suggestions for designing and using PowerPoint slides that I teach my students.

1.     1. Form Follows Function.  In creating slides, the function is to communicate with our audience.  Therefore, the form, or design of our slides should focus on effective communications first, and looking cute, pretty, or adorable second.

2.     2. Font Size.  The minimum size for most audiences is 24-point, with 30-point being desired.

3.     3. Font Type.  Books, newspapers, and almost everything else in life that we read is Times New Roman font (TNR).  It is what we are used to and thus is easier to read for most people.  TNR is not a pretty as other types, but is more functional (see #1 above).

4.     4. Displayed Content.  If the presenter is providing detailed instructions to students for a role-play or instructions for subgroup work in the classroom, than include as many words on the slide as needed and that you have room for.  This slide stays visible to the students as they do the required work.  However, in teaching a subject, avoid writing out detailed sentences.  Simply condense what you plan to say into key words and then speak in detail, as needed, about those key words.  We usually see long, detailed sentences when the slide was designed by someone other than the presenter, or the presenters write long sentence because they are afraid they will forget what they want to say.

5.     5. Reveal Technique.  Reveal your bullet points one at a time so your audience knows which bullet point you are discussing.   Since you are paraphrasing the bullet points, the audience may not know which item you are presenting.

6.     6. Read or Paraphrase All Words on Your Slide!  Please, don’t stand silently at the podium and ask your audience to read a slide.  People read at very different speeds.  As a silent presenter, you have no idea how much of the slide your audience has read.

Of course, there are many more issues that could be discussed: for example, using color and contrast or employing graphics.  Finally, the above items are indeed my opinions and I’m sure that some may differ from yours.

Best to all,

Dick Leatherman

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