Amy Goodloe Lecture Notes for WRTG 3020
[last updated 5/1/11 - under perpetual revision ]
A Few Notes on Designing Rhetorically Effective Presentations
Preface I wrote the following slides to serve as lecture notes for my campus-based WRTG 3020 class on Tuesday 3/29/11. The focus of the lecture was on how to compose rhetorically effective stand-alone presentations, which was relevant to the Academic Research Project students were working on.
This presentation does not itself stand alone, meaning that some of the content I covered was delivered orally and is not captured here.
I’ve added a few slides to the beginning to try and establish some context, but I don’t currently have time to fill in the gaps throughout. Nevertheless, you will probably still find the notes helpful.
If you have questions about any of the notes, please feel free to email me.
Introduction “Writing” Presentations
Presentations as “Writing” The first step towards becoming a more rhetorically aware writer of presentations is recognizing that presentations are a genre of writing Like all genres, presentations have characteristics that impact both what kinds of messages are well-suited to the genre as well as how the message is delivered
Presentations as Genre
A rhetorically successful presentation makes effective use of the characteristics of the genre, rather than ignoring them In other words, don’t write a paper and then force
it into presentation format Instead, write a message that makes deliberate use of the features available only in the presentation genre
Comparing Genres Presentations
read top to bottom unit of thought: the paragraph style: complete sentences may include some static visuals delivered via print
read side to side unit of thought: slide or group of slides style: mix of complete sentences and bullet language usually includes visuals and sometimes video delivered in digital format
Sub-Genres: the Stand Alone Presentation
For the Academic Research Project, I’ve asked you to write a stand-alone presentation You might find it helpful to think of the stand-
alone presentation as a sub-genre of presentations, one that is closer to the genre of paper writing than the sort of presentations used as an aid for oral delivery
Stand-Alone Presentations: Common Genre Stand-alone presentations are increasingly common as a way to deliver messages, both because they can easily be published on the web and because, if theyâ€™re done well, they tend to be more reader-friendly than long passages of prose
Stand-Alone Presentations as Digital Composition
Stand-alone presentations represent a new form of writing, sometimes referred to as “digital compositions” “Composition” expands the concept of
writing to cover not only text but other modes of communication, such as visual and aural
Special Features of Stand-Alone Presentations Entirely self-contained Viewer chooses when/how to view No live oral delivery In other words, presentation should:
contain all explanatory and contextual info
viewers need to make sense of your message use transitions to make clear connections between ideas
Thinking Rhetorically ď‚Ą
As with any form of writing, your audience will judge your presentation based on how well it measures up to their expectations for the genre You are in control of establishing what those expectations should be, through your choices for:
File Names Whatâ€™s in a name?
Rhetorical Nature of File Names
Consider the nature of digital documents: Audiences may download your file and then forget about
where they found it or what it contains Files with names that convey meaningful information are more likely to be viewed
What makes a good file name?
Alerts viewers to presentation contents Includes the file extension (i.e., .ppt or .pptx) Includes your last name ▪ for the benefit of those who download the file
Sample File Names Which file name is more helpful to the audience indicated? Instructor and classmates
▪ Goodloe-academic-presentation-final.pptx ▪ homophobia.pptx ▪ My Research Project
▪ Understanding-Origins-Homophobia.pptx ▪ Final Project
Titles It all starts here
Rhetorical Nature of Titles
Consider how your choice of title impacts readers and establishes expectations What type of presentation does your title
promise? Does the presentation deliver on that promise?
Sample Titles “Gender and Violence” ▪ too broad “Critique of the John/Joan Case” ▪ might be too narrow, if presentation covers origins of gender identity more broadly “Doing Gender and Doing Gender Inappropriately” ▪ this is the title of an article in GSS; don’t use the article’s title as your own title “Understanding the Origins of Homophobia: A Closer
Look at Sexism Among Adolescent Men”
▪ seems appropriate, depending on presentation content
Introductions Where are we going?
Rhetorical Purpose of Introductions
Consider the function of an introduction: to prepare readers for the content and structure of
your document to influence how readers respond to your message to establish reasonable expectations for what your
document will and wont’ do
Don’t promise more (or less) than you deliver!
Divide introductory material across multiple slides Forecast the overall structure of the body by previewing main points End with a thesis or controlling idea General principle of emphasis: viewers will put the most
emphasis on what comes last in your intro They will assess the rest of document in light of what come last, on the assumption that it was your thesis, even if that’s not what you intended
Clarify the nature, purpose, and scope of presentation Keep the content introductory in nature: no supporting points or examples Provide background viewers need to make sense of your presentation Define key terms or concepts Introduce relevant aspects of article(s) you’re using as sources
Rhetorical Variations on Intros
Depending on your audience and purpose, you might find it effective to use an opener before your introduction Helps to “grab” readers’ attention Might span one or multiple slides Should clearly transition into introduction
Opener Ideas Common strategies for openers: real or hypothetical scenario rhetorical questions for readers informal survey results relevant news event images or video clip
Body Sections Are we there yet?
Rhetorical Purpose of Body Section
Consider the function of the body section of your document to deliver on the promise of the introduction and
How do you deliver on that promise? present points, ideas, examples, etc. that support
and/or illustrate the thesis follow the organizational pattern previewed in intro
Group slides into sections and sub-sections Use headers for sections and sub-sections ▪ Word or phrase on individual slide Establish common theme or layout for each
Remember principles of emphasis: Viewers put the most emphasis on what comes
first in a section or subsection Second most emphasis on what comes last
Body: Section Design
For slides in a section or subsection: use common title element for example: Topic: Subtopic
use a common thematic element color, graphics, etc.
or leave title off of subsection slides hint: type a space in the title box to hide “click
to add title”
Body: Guide Your Readers Use the presentation equivalent of topic sentences and transitions to guide viewers through each section Clarify connections between ideas in each section and how sections relate back to thesis
Remember: presentation should stand alone,
without needing you to deliver an oral version, so make sure to fill in all the gaps ▪ (Or plan to record yourself delivering an oral version and include that with the presentation)
Body: Support Your Points
Offer support for points through summary, paraphrase, short quotations, or embedded content, such as: long quotations, charts, graphs, photos, images, video
clips, etc. put embedded content on its own slide
Provide clear context leading up to embedded content Provide clear transition away from embedded content, if applicable Cite source via parenthetical reference (Sample MLA Citation 22)
Conclusions Where have we been?
Rhetorical Purpose of Conclusions To wrap up your overall discussion of thesis or controlling idea By the time they reach the end of the conclusion, readers should understand:
overall scope and purpose of your presentation the key ideas you wanted to emphasize the larger implications or relevance of those ideas
Use a common conclusion strategy to offer viewers a sense of closure: reflect on the big picture implications of your topic propose tentative solutions to a problem
presented by your topic make suggestions for additional issues the reader might explore further offer your own personal perspective on the topic
Style Say what?
Language Use Use vocabulary appropriate to your target audience For most slides, use bullet list style, which is the prevalent style for this genre Use a semi-formal or slightly informal style, appropriate to classroom-type discussion with other college students
But remember that other members of the
academic community are among your secondary audience
List Style Language
For text in bulleted lists, use bullet style: Start each list item with an action word Use parallel sentence structure Aim for conciseness
Note: Keep in mind that not all content is effectively presented in list format. For content presented in paragraph format,
Paragraph Style Language For text in paragraph format, use the same principles that apply to paragraphs in a paper. For example, use a topic sentence, use complete sentences, vary your sentence structure, and use transitions to create coherence and â€œflow.â€?
Layout The art of readability
Make It Inviting
You want to invite readers to move through your presentation… so don’t bog them down with too much
information on a single slide
Consider how you feel when you encounter a paragraph or a slide packed with info Do you want to dig in or move on?
Keep It Simple convey only one main idea per slide
Choose the Right Layout
Choose an appropriate slide layout for the content of the slide Use title slide layout for first slide Use section header layout for section titles Title/content layout works for most slides, but
explore other options Use layouts with vertical or slanted text sparingly, if at all
List Management ď‚Ą For complex bulleted lists: ď‚§ provide preview of top level bullets on
one slide ď‚§ then use separate slides to develop each point
Size Matters ď‚Ą Maximize the size of embedded
ď‚§ Particularly important if content is a
Limit the range of font sizes you use to no more than 12 pts difference For example, if your biggest font is 22pt, don’t use
a font any smaller than 10pt
Make sure the presentation is readable in the embedded version, as many readers may not expand it to full screen
Think Writing, Not Art Choose a modest theme that maximizes readability, rather than one that calls attention to itself for being pretty ď‚Ą Use thematic elements (like color) to indicate sections and subsections ď‚Ą
Choose colors that enhance rather than detract from readability Dark text against light background is typically the
most readable But a lot depends on color and font style
Choose readable fonts
Serif fonts against plain backgrounds San-serif fonts against patterns
Which of the following two examples do you find easier to read?
Why is #1 so hard to read?
White text against dark background Serif font against pattern background Serif font in italics Font in both italics and bold Too many words for one slide
Why is #2 easier to read? High contrast: dark text against light background Sans serif font is not italicized or bold Fewer words Shorter sentences
Closing Thoughts What, leaving so soon?
Goal #1: Rhetorical Awareness
Your first main goal with the presentation is to demonstrate that you’ve learned how to use the presentation genre to effectively communicate a message to a particular audience You don’t have to be skilled at graphic design to achieve that goal, as long as your presentation is readable If you do want to draw on principles of graphic design, make sure they support your message rather than serving as a distraction
Goal #2: Academic Knowledge ď‚Ą
Your second main goal is to demonstrate that you understand the nature of academic knowledge about gender and sexuality and how that type of knowledge differs from knowledge we receive elsewhere, particularly on your topic
Emphasize Sources In other words, your presentation should do more than simply inform readers about the topic, using sources in the background Instead, it should bring the source(s) to the foreground, using it/them to help readers understand how academics go about studying the topic
perhaps in comparison to how other forms of
knowledge are produced, such as by pop culture or documentaries
WRTG = Writing and Rhetoric
Keep in mind that you’re developing this presentation for a writing and rhetoric class, not a gender studies class So the presentation, like all of your class projects, should illustrate your level of proficiency in writing and rhetorical awareness students vary in their level of experience with and
understanding of complex gender and sexuality issues what matters is not what you know but how you write about what you know
Additional Resources With a little quick Google searching, you can find loads of resources on how to make effective use of PowerPoint, Keynote, or any other slide presentation application If you’re a visual learner, search for tutorials on YouTube Like it or not, presentations will be in your future, so take this opportunity to build your skills
Disclaimer Redux As of March 30, 2011, I would consider this presentation to be in the stage of being a “full draft,” in need of much further revision Please do not share this presentation with anyone outside your class, as it does not represent a “publishable” version of my work!
Published on Jul 29, 2011