Now that we’ve thought about timing, let’s consider the content of your talk.

For some people, notes can be helpful, and in some cases (such as academic conferences) speakers may read their talk more-or-less word-for-word. In many cases, though, the most natural talks come from planning and practicing with short prompts rather than reading long passages of text. Preparing in this way can help you to connect better with the audience; it also prevents the possibility of losing your place and having to find where you got to.

In your introduction, we recommend briefly outlining the topic that you’d like to cover and how you’re planning to approach it. This is your opportunity to signpost any important things to listen out for in advance, and set any ground-rules such as when the audience should ask questions or any interactive elements you might have planned.

The Rule of Three

In both written and spoken communication, ‘tricolons’ or groups of three are often used to emphasise a point or help it to sound most natural. When planning your talk or presentation, it’s normally advisable to include no more than 3 main points – more than this and it may become difficult for your audience to follow. Planning around three main points can also help you remember the sections that you need to cover without remembering too much.

Using Slides

Nowadays, most talks and presentations include some sort of accompanying slide content, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always helpful.

For your audience, slides can be a neutral point of focus that may be more comfortable than holding the gaze of a speaker, and they can be helpful to illustrate your points. With this in mind, we recommend including just a few words or images on each slide. This could be in the form of 3-5 bullet points, a quote, or an illustration. If you do include bullet points, though, try to avoid reading exactly what’s on the slide unless you add additional information when speaking.

As a general rule, try not to include more than one slide for each minute of your presentation.

To make your content most accessible, be aware of your use of colour on slides. An off-white background can help to improve readability for people with dyslexia, as well as a sans serif font (more info here). We also recommend a high contrast ratio with your chosen colour scheme to help make it readable to people with colour-blindness.