Designing the Presentation


Adding Slides
Changing defaults

In the previous chapter, we found out:
  • the subject of our speach,
  • the audience we will have,
  • the items we will discuss, and
  • the available time.
Now we can start designing the general structure of the presentation.

Detail on the Slides

There are different ideas on the relation between the content of your speach and the content of your slides. In some environments (usually management and universities), people tend to write slides which cover the talk in great detail.

The advantage of a detailed covering is that people can reread the contents of the presentation later. However, the disadvantages from detailed slides are enormous: you require a huge number of slides (if your presentation is going about some real subject at least).
Because the number of slides is large, you have to hurry through the slides, which stesses your speach. People from the audience will have problems keeping-up with reading and understanding the content of your slides, which will result in a decreasing ability to listen to what you are telling them.
If people were interested in reading, they would have read a book about the subject. They sit to listen.

Conclusion: do not write detailed slides. If you want to give your audience something to read, produce a separate paper on the same subject. In practice, the related paper will be very different from the order, content, and level of detail as your speach.

Number of Slides

We need a general idea on the number of slides we can use during our talk. In my experience, about 3 minutes is a nice average for each slide. So, for 45 minutes presentation (excluding questions!) you should have no more than 15 slides. This is not much. If you make more slides, you will have to rush. That will result in stress, which on its turn will decrease the audience's ability (and willingness) to understand your subject. Don't!

low level average level high level Audience
30min45min 30min45min 30min45min Duration
Introduction 4 (40%)6 (40%) 3 (30%)5 (25%) 2 (20%)2 (10%)  
Item 1 5 (50%)5 (30%) 3 (30%)5 (30%) 3 (30%)5 (35%)
Item 2 03 (20%) 3 (25%)5 (30%) 3 (30%)5 (35%)
Conclusions 1 (10%)2 (10%) 1 (15%)2 (10%) 1 (10%)2 (10%)
Future 00 01 (5%) 1 (10%)2 (10%)
Table: Suggestion for slides per part.

I have a big thumb, and the above numbers came from it. The percentages do add up to 100% of time. The number of slides for a 30 minutes presentation is only 10, for 45 minutes just 15 or 16.

In a later stage, we will try to be more precise on the required time per slide. But before we can be specific, we have to write our slides for real.

Design the Slides on Paper

The best way to continue now, is to take a piece of paper and figure out what you will tell for each slide (as general content, not exact). The table above gives you the guideline how little number of slides you have, so you will need to strip most facts from what you want to tell. That's life. This is what everyone must learn, and what comes hard to everyone.

Each slide shall never cover more than one demarced sub-subject of the presentation. Doesn't matter if the slide will be nearly empy later on: better add an extra slide than include two seperate subjects on one.


In the introduction part of the presentation, you should mention the following:
  • Very brief welcome to the audience (no space required on a slide: usually spoken when the front-page of your presentation is still showing).
  • Very brief introduction on yourself and your occupation (unless your target is to have people adore you)
  • Brief description of the subject. Usually combined with
  • an overview of the content of your presentation one slide.
  • The introduction into the subject. All other slides available for the introduction part of the talk.


The item or items you want to discuss can be presented
  • in chronological order (history lesson);
  • thematical (per sub-subject);
  • as cause and effect (explanatory); and
  • problem solving (showing example workouts).
You do not need to follow the same schedule for each main item; it is even more pleasant for the audience to have a different approach on each item: a change of meal.


As conclusions, you have to discuss what you were trying to demonstrate or teach, so people understand what they have to remember, and how they can continue studying the subject: mention some urls or books.


Only with an educated audience, you may discuss in what direction you think that development will (need to) develop. This is a very dangerous part of your talk, and can provoke harsh debate. Do incorporate more time for questions in your schedule in this case!

Next: Create a Presentation.

Portable Presenter is written and maintained by Mark Overmeer. Copyright (C) 2000-2002, Free Software Foundation FSF.