These 7 presentation design principles will have your students hooked

We all know the feeling. Sitting in a lecture hall, confronted by a wall of text on a big screen. Try as they might, the lecturer can’t stop the students from daydreaming, texting on their phones or whispering among themselves – no one seems to be paying attention – even though this class will be on the final exam.

The problem isn’t always the content; sometimes it’s presentation. Lecture slides are as much about great design as they are a great topic. The mistake many lecturers make is prioritising the information over how they deliver it. This leads to dull, tedious lectures that struggle to grasp the attention of even the most dedicated student.

Here are seven principles of presentation design that can get your students paying attention:


Keep slides short

When it comes to presenting important information, it’s tempting to use full sentences to define key terms or explain core concepts. But this creates a wall of text that would make anyone’s eyes glaze over.

People go to lectures to listen, not to read. When designing a presentation, it’s essential to bear that in mind. Don’t cover whole sections of content in a single slide. One slide should only feature one point or topic.

This doesn’t just help the flow of your presentation; it reduces the amount of text on each slide. The less text you use, the greater a visual impact your slide will make.


Structure your content

Designing a presentation is like telling a story. It should have a clear beginning, an exciting middle and end. In a more academic sense, a lecture should start with an opening point, provide supporting, interesting and even polarizing information in the body slides while ending with a conclusion that brings it all together.

A structured approach creates a clear connection between all of your slides, making it easy for your audience to follow. As each point flows naturally into the next, it helps with retaining information


Use images wherever you can

One of the most important principles of presentation design is using visuals. Ninety percent of information sent to the brain is visual, and it processes those visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

Whether you’re using photographs, art or graphics, images help your audience visualise and process information on a slide. These images can come from anywhere: make them yourself, use creative commons imagery or even buy them from professional photographers or image sites. Your imagination truly is the limit.

There’s just one rule: never use Clip Art. Never.


Let your colours show

When designing a presentation, it’s best to choose a font and slide colour palette in the early stages. Choose 3-4 contrasting, yet complimentary colours. This allows your slides to be read easier and makes graphics and images pop on the screen.


White space is your friend

This is one of the most forgotten elements of presentation design. It may seem like it’s best to completely fill up the space a slide gives you, yet leaving some white space can have a positive effect on the design of your presentation.

Utilise slightly wider margins to draw focus to the centre of the slide; it’s content and images you’ve placed there. Embracing white space helps you avoid cluttering your slides—making sure you only include the most vital information.

To pick the best design, you can find lecture-friendly academic presentation templates in Microsoft PowerPoint, and there are even whole websites, like Canva, dedicated to creating aesthetically pleasing slides and images.


Be interactive

Newer ways of interacting with your audience are coming to life

You can build live polls and Q&A sessions into your lectures to engage your students and help you better understand what their questions are, as well as seeing what concepts or ideas they find most interesting.

Not only does this live interaction go a long way to increasing your audience’s engagement, but their feedback will then help you design and build your future lectures’ content. It’s a win-win in the best possible way.


Video caps it all off

If images are what our brains use to retain information, then video content is the ultimate expression of that method of learning. Its use of both visuals and audio makes it an engaging tool.

It’s best to use it only once or twice per presentation. Otherwise, it runs the risk of stealing focus from the rest of your lecture. Video is best used to emphasise a point or engage your audience at a key part of your presentation.

Sticking to these seven principles of presentation design won’t just make lectures more interesting, it will also engage students in a much more powerful way than the standard walls of text they’re used to.


To make sure your students questions are answered and organised, you can use Zeetings’ powerful Q&A tool. Not only will you be able to see and screen questions as they come in on a live feed, you’ll be able to see which questions are the most popular and answer them in order of priority. Find out more here.



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