Aide memoire for oral presentations and visual aids

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Words of advice

  1. Identify a single overriding communication objective (SOCO) adapted to your audience.
  2. Develop a storyboard: Start with the conclusion slide matched to the objectives, derive a recommendation slide on its basis and then prepare results, methods and introduction.
  3. Prepare visual aids with large fonts without “serifs”, good contrast and no more then seven lines per slide.
  4. Present digital information in tables and display analogical information on graphs. Add only the maps, pictures and graphics that serve the SOCO.
  5. Write a script with full sentences that take slide bullet points as starting point. Push excessive information to the script and the Q&A session.
  6. List potential questions and prepare answers.
  7. Rehearse over and over again with feedback from a public, and check timing.

Evaluation checklist

Summarized content

- Content targeted to audience
- Key concepts emphasized
- Details left aside
- Focus on a clear SOCO
- One verb / objective
- Parallel objectives / conclusions
- Limitations slide
- Data supporting the conclusions
- Evidence-based recommendations
- Sequential slides
- Efficient story telling
- 1 to 1.5 slide per minute

Effective visual supports

- Font size >20, =< 7 bullets
- Sufficient contrast, wise colours
- Informative, time, place person titles
- One graph / table / list per slide
- Non-sentence bullets
- No lonely bullets
- Parallel construction syntax
- Time sequence, time tags
- Graphs centred around one idea
- Optimized ink-to-data ratio
- No mix of digital / analogical info
- Standard tables with < 10 rows
- Numbers right-aligned, 1,000 dividers
- Rounding up
- No unnecessary graphic elements
- Map for geographical information

Harmonious delivery

- Good flow, not too fast, not too slow
- Understandable language
- Humble, social, respectful presenter
- Speech related to visual aids
- Speech adding to the slides
- Descriptions preceding analyses
- Time slot respected to the second

Answers to questions

- Floor handed over to the moderator
- Questions noted
- Constructive, open mind
- Question points answered
- Brief answers
- Conflict avoidance / resolution


- DO research your audience, who they are, what they like and what they do.
- DO prepare your talk like a story-telling exercise where problems get framed and solved.
- DO ensure the talk unfolds sequentially with ideas following each other naturally.
- DO aim at keeping the attention of the audience at all times.
- DO boil down the study to its core elements.
- DO think of slides as self-sufficient vectors of information that stand out by themselves.
- DO think about the meanings of colours and contrast.
- DO time yourself during rehearsals.
- DO prepare to address language barriers.
- DO manage challenges through the Acknowledge-Sympathize-Respond technique.
- DO behave like the listener you would like to have as a presenter when seated in the audience to listen to other talks.


  • DO NOT go over time. Ever.
  • DO NOT add details that may jeopardize the dynamic of the exchange.
  • DO NOT add any element that is not essential to supporting the SOCO.
  • DO NOT tell them everything you know.
  • DO NOT write full sentences on your slides.
  • DO NOT use capitals letters for more than one word that deserves highlighting.
  • DO NOT try to communicate more than one idea per graph.
  • DO NOT use excessive amount of animation.
  • DO NOT use colours at random.
  • DO NOT express excessive confidence through jokes and a familiar attitude.
  • DO NOT have elements on the slides that are not commented upon in the script.
  • DO NOT use the pointer excessively (if at all). Prefer an oral description of what is on the slide
  • DO NOT be defensive when answering questions.
  • DO NOT lie or make up data when answering question.

Emphasize the scientific added value of a project

What was already known on this subject?

Introduction: Explain what the state of scientific knowledge was in this area before you did your project and why this project needed to be done.

What does this study add?

Conclusions: What do we now know as a result of this project that we did not know before?

What are the public health implications?

Recommendations: Explain how your results could support the implementation of interventions directed to solve the problem you are dealing with in your presentation. Suggest the next steps in generating more knowledge or moving forward with action.


Jakob Schumacher
Arnold Bosman
Yvan Hutin