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The art of presentation

In the era of social media development, mobile applications and devices, accessibility to many sources of information, channels and ways of communication, as well as ubiquitous multimedia contents, it is becoming extremely difficult to gain and maintain the attention of the audience.

This applies to every type of communication, ranging from interpersonal, mass or marketing communication to its special kind, i.e. a presentation.

1. Scientific basis for an effective presentation

For a presentation to become the art of effective communication, it must take into account several key issues, developed on the basis of interdisciplinary research.

According to D. Hyerle, from 80 to 90% of the information perceived by the human brain is acquired through the sense of sight1. This means that in order to create presentations that engage the audience, it is necessary to use symbols and graphic signs, while reducing the amount of text.

The results of research referred to by psychologist and neuroscientist D.J. Levitin are relevant for this discussion. In his book ‘The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload’ Levitin notes that the so-called multitasking in the case of simultaneous reading and listening is in fact rapid switching from one activity to another2. The presenter cannot expect the audience to focus equally on understanding both the oral message and the text on the slides. A good solution, therefore, is to provide a commentary with appropriate visuals that complement (rather than duplicate) its contents.

Presentations should be designed to engage as many of the senses as possible. According to research, this will not only enable the audience to understand the contents but also to remember it better (Table 1).

Table 1. The ability to remember the contents of a presentation depending on its type.
Source: E. Dale (1969). Cone of experience, [in:] Educational Media: Theory into Practice. Wiman R.V. (ed.). Charles Merrill: Columbus, Ohio, in accordance with: Active Learning,, [access date: 20 September 2020]
Way of content presentation Ability of recipients to remember the contents
After 3 hours After 3 days
Lecture (oral message without visualisation) 25% 10-20%
Reading (text without visualisation) 72% 10%
Lecture with a presentation (oral message and visualisation) 80% 65%
Presentation with an active participation of recipients (role playing, case studies, exercises) 90% 70%

When preparing the contents of the presentation and choosing the way of its delivery, it is worth taking into account the results of research, but also the experience of professional presenters who confirm that stories are an important element engaging the audience emotionally. People are more likely to respond to a given message if they can relate it to their own experiences3. A combination of statistical data and stories can result in the perception of a presentation as credible and understandable.

2. How to prepare a good presentation? Practical remarks

2.1. Development of the presentation contents.

A good presentation should engage the audience primarily through the appropriate selection and development of the contents, both in the form of the presenter’s oral delivery and complementary visuals (usually on slides).

2.2. The form of the presentation.

The key to an interesting presentation is the creativity of its creator. Specialised software and applications can be helpful in creating tailor-made, professional and effective visualisations to support oral presentations.

2.3. A presentation plan.

A good practice in the art of presentation is to divide it into sections, which typically include:

  • an introduction, with an opening slide containing the title of the presentation, the presenter’s name and affiliation,
  • information about the presentation plan,
  • the substantial part, i.e. the presenter’s statement on a given topic, supplemented with visuals presented on slides,
  • closing, with a final slide, containing, e.g., a thank-you to the audience or an invitation to get in touch.

2.4. Engaging the audience of the presentation.

Stories included in the presentation play a special role in the engagement and personal reference of the audience to the communicated contents.

2.5. The audience remembers the presentation.

The use of graphic elements instead of a large amount of text on slides improves the perception of the contents and engaging as many senses as possible facilitates remembering.

3. Programmes, materials and inspirations facilitating the preparation of the presentation – some selected recommendations

It is difficult to imagine that the visual part of a presentation can be prepared without the use of specialised tools and software. The most popular programmes include PowerPoint, a part of Microsoft Office4. There are also competing applications available online, such as Prezi5 and Canva6.

Infographics are a creative form of presentation. A unique guide to creating infographics has been prepared and made available online by Wawrzyniec Święcicki, while a library of templates, images and graphics for creating this type of presentation can be found in Canva mentioned above.

In addition to the above mentioned, a source of inspiration in developing the substantial contents may be the SlideShare platform, which allows its users to share multimedia presentations, graphics and video files7.

Regardless of your talents and skills with regard to preparing and delivering presentations, it is worth to consult such sources of inspiration as performances of professional presenters at events such as TED conferences, IMPACT congresses, competitions, e.g. Three Minute Thesis, etc..

Of all the recommendations, both those described in this paper and not mentioned here, the most valuable piece of advice when it comes to the art of presentation is: ‘less is more’.


1 Hyerle, Thinking Maps: Visual Tools for Activating Habits of Mind. [in:] Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B. (ed.) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success, 2009, p. 153

2 D. J. Levitin, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Dutton, New York, 2014, p. 1-528

3 The Science of Effective Presentations, Prezi, pp. 1-26, [access date: 20 July 2020]





Reference literature

Dale E., Cone of experience [in:] Educational Media: Theory into Practice. Wiman R.V. (red.). Charles Merrill: Columbus, Ohio za: Active Learning, 1969,, [online access: 20 September 2020]

Hyerle, D., Thinking Maps: Visual Tools for Activating Habits of Mind [in:] Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B. (Red.) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success, 2009.

Levitin, D. J., The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information overload. Dutton, New York, 2014.

Święcicki W., Infografiki – krótki poradnik, (initially available on, [online access: 20 September 2020]

The Science of Effective Presentations, Prezi, pp. 1-26, [online access: 20 July 2020]

About the author

Aneta Lipińska holds a PhD in humanities in the field of management sciences. She is a lecturer at the Institute of Economics, Finance and Management of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Her scientific interests focus on the activity and ecosystem of start-ups, e-business, social media and information society development. Her research as well as teaching and organisational activity at the Jagiellonian University enable her to gain new competencies and combine her passion with professional work.