Dietitians are increasingly giving presentations to a variety of audiences. Whether developing presentations for work, dietetics conferences or other professional health care meetings, dietetic practice groups, webinars, clients, growing one’s business, or students, being a better presenter is something we’re all interested in.
In my predietitian life as an English major, I was notorious for including too many words on my PowerPoint slides—a common mistake. We’ve probably all been to a presentation where we’ve sat wondering, Why am I sitting here if I could just read the whole presentation on my own? As a speaker, this is a stressful way to present. Having so much information on your slides makes you want to read from them, taking your attention away from where it belongs: on your audience.
As I continue to learn, my slides are changing and my presentations are improving. By incorporating new styles of slide preparation, getting creative, and tapping into how audiences learn best, I’ve taken my presentations to the next level—and you can too. Here, I share my top 10 tips to help RDs create better slides for their presentations.
1. Get started early. Because much thought goes into preparing slides for presentations, it’s best not to procrastinate. Give yourself enough time to determine what bullet points you want to highlight and what photos, graphs, and charts you may want to include. Starting early leaves enough time for creativity and your message to shine in the eyes of your audience.
2. Create an outline. Before you start creating your slides, open up a Word document and develop a thorough outline of your presentation, establishing your main points and focusing on flow. PowerPoint is no place to brainstorm; it’s a place for creating the final product and letting your message come alive.
4. Ditch the bullets. The PowerPoint program likes bullet points and will automatically include in the lay out of your slides. However, it’s important to stop and think before you bullet: Is this the best way to present your information? Could you use an image instead? Are your bullets actually reminders for your talking points? If bullets are for talking points, consider using the “notes” section of the presentation for that.
5. Think before you graph. Use caution with graphs and figures on slides. If you use them, keep in mind that they don’t speak for themselves; your presentation skills should do the heavy lifting by explaining the data. Use a graph if it’s a great example of your main point, but don’t load up your slides with too many of them.
6. Image is everything.Poor-quality or blurry images distract and detract from your message. Make sure you don’t violate copyright laws by using images that are protected. Use sites such as Creative Commons, iStock, Pexels, Getty Images, or Unsplash for photos that are high quality and free to use. Moreover, think about what message your images are conveying. Clip art won’t cut it if you want to encourage audience engagement.
7. Streamline each slide. As I mentioned, less is more on a slide. Your presentation should live in your head with some reminders placed in the notes section but not on the slides. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they put too much information and words on their slides.
8. Make your slides work for you. Your slides aid your presentation—the presentation doesn’t support the slides.Make sure that you are the star. Create your slides so that the information you’re conveying is supported by the images and words on the slides. Design them with this goal in mind.
9. Practice, practice, practice. Before the big day, practice your entire presenting aloud. Don’t skip over segments of it or think to yourself, “I know what I’ll say on this slide.” Say all the words, practice the timing, and make notes on which slides you need to update or notes on when you’re done.
10. Present with ease. When you’re on stage, present in “Presenter View” if you’re using PowerPoint. When running your presentation off a screen projected to your audience, select “Presenter View” under the “Slide Show” tab of PowerPoint 2010 and beyond. Use it to see your notes, keep time with a clock and stopwatch, and see both the slide that’s currently being projected as well as the next slide.
Dietitian presenters can take their presentations to the next level by creating professional slides that support the star: You!
Come check me out at Champagne Nutrition, where I talk about a healthful yet on-the-go lifestyle balanced with travel and champagne drinking.
— Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, is a nutrition health writer and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She’s a certified board specialist in oncology nutrition and holds a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in nutrition. She works at Arivale, a scientific wellness company as a registered dietitian coach and as an adjunct clinical faculty member at Bastyr University in the teaching clinic. Ginger serves as past chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and past president of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has given nutrition lectures for continuing education credits in Seattle and for Chicago-area dietetic associations and webinars for dietetic practice groups.