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Quiz: Building presentations by the numbers

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Take this quiz to see how well you understand the general guidelines for preparing presentations.

1. How much time should you allocate to preparing a presentation?

2. How can you judge how long the presentation will be?

3. How many slides should you prepare?

4. How many fonts should you use? What size should they be?

5. How many words should be on a slide?


1. Some public speakers devote an hour of preparation for every one to three minutes of speaking. So, if you must create a presentation, clear plenty of time on the calendar, particularly if this is the first time you are speaking about this subject.

2. People usually speak about 100 words a minute. So, a 2,000-word presentation—read through without pauses for questions, etc.—will take about 20 minutes.

3. Limit yourself to about one slide for every one to three minutes of speaking time. (A great presenter may use only one slide per five minutes.)

4. Don't use more than two fonts in one presentation, because including too many will distract viewers from the message. Vary the font size, and use bold and italics for emphasis.

To estimate how large text should be for viewing, figure a ratio of one inch per eight or 10 feet of distance between the screen and the audience. Test: Print nine slides on a sheet of paper. If you can't read the slides, the audience won't be able to see them when projected.

5. Think of a slide as a billboard along a highway that readers must comprehend quickly (so they can return their attention to the speaker). Place no more than seven words per line and seven lines of text on a slide: Most people can hold only five to seven items in their short-term memory.

To find ways to improve your presentations, visit these web sites:

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