Presenting Your Work
Dr. Karen Palmer
Developing Digital Presentations
As technology advances, the options for presenting work digitally continue to grow. Digital presentations refer to methods of presenting your work in the virtual world without using paper. These options take advantage of links to other parts of the document as well as links to related locations on the Internet. Using such links is one way to take advantage of the capabilities available in digital work. The internal links allow readers to instantly access other sections of your paper. External links lead to related text, videos, or audio pieces that are located on the Internet. Most of these digital options also allow you to embed video or audio segments so that the reader can simply click on a button or arrow to activate the segments.
Creating PowerPoint Slides
PowerPoint is Microsoft Office software that has nearly become a standard presentation software. When you create PowerPoint slides to present your paper, you should use a small number of slides, typically less than ten. The slides should cover the most important aspects of your paper and should be at least somewhat visual in nature. PowerPoint also presents the option of textual and visual animation as well as audio components. In an effort to keep your slides as visual as possible, place bullets next to sentences whenever possible. Also, use fonts that are large enough for a group to read from a screen: 28 points or larger for base text and at least 36 points for headings.
Allow for ample white space on each slide. Without making the pages overwhelming, use color and visuals to add interest to the slides. If you do not have value-adding images, tables, or graphs that you can use, you can add color to the background, to text, or to text boxes.
You can add your voice and other audio to your slides. And you can create a slideshow that you can turn on and run automatically, presenting visuals and sound simultaneously. These capabilities allow you to create your entire presentation and run it without actually saying a word during the presentation. If you intend to run an automatic presentation, make sure you go through practice runs until the entire presentation works as you intend it to work.
Filming a Digital Presentation
Using video filming equipment, you could film yourself presenting your work and capture both audio and video. You could then upload your presentation to the Internet (via a common video sharing site like YouTube). If you want your digital films to include a variety of multimedia options, you would have to learn how to incorporate such features using the equipment available to you.
Writing in the Digital World
The digital world has permanently altered written communication. Copying and pasting ease the sharing and transferring of large blocks of text. Independent and joint editing of text is much easier and much less time consuming. Searching for specific parts of a long text is quick and easy. Checking for plagiarism takes only a few seconds. Multimodal compositions can be created by incorporating visual and auditory material into written texts.
Both as a student and in other aspects of your life, you are likely to write information and publish it on the Internet. Like every other kind of written communication, how you write on the web depends on the purpose of the specific situation. In reality, you’ve probably developed a pretty good system for running your web-based communication. If you have an unlimited text plan and maintain at least one profile on a social networking site, you concern yourself with matters of voice, message, audience, tone, attitude, and reception hundreds of times a day. At the very least, students and teachers ought to be trying to learn together how to apply or translate the sophisticated rhetorical strategies you use in your casual communication to your more serious academic and professional endeavors.
Because you are often multitasking while texting or using the web and because of the speed and convenience of electronic communication, this realm is prone to carelessness. In casual situations, rules are minimal and you can use very casual language that includes abbreviations, slang, and shortcuts. Your use of a casual tone depends solely on whether your audience will understand what you are saying. Writing for school or work does not fall into the casual category. In these situations, you cannot use abbreviations, slang, and shortcuts. In fact, you need to use proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization. You should also use traditional writing rules and a more formal tone when responding to diverse populations and serious situations.
Whether writing in a casual or formal situation, always be aware of the population that has access to your content. Also keep in mind that even if you are writing on a semiprivate venue like a class-wide course management system or on an invitation-only wiki, your digital text can easily be copied by someone with access and forwarded to someone without access. So don’t write anything that could embarrass or cause problems for you or others.
Due to the non-private nature of the Internet, you should not provide full contact information. Depending on the situation, you might choose to use your full name (such as in an online class or on a memorial condolence site) or you might choose to use a pseudonym (such as in a response to a blog or to an online newspaper article). Only give your phone number and address when you are on very secure sites. Never post your social security number online. If you have a legitimate request for your social security number, call and give it over the telephone.
Using Web Links Effectively
Links are placed within digital texts to reroute readers to other locations. They have a wide range of purposes based on where and why they are used. You can use links to organize a page, to save space on a page, to add interest to your text, to incorporate someone else’s ideas into your work, to provide conveniences for your reader, and to complement text in other creative ways. Most often, links are in blue font that is underlined once or twice. You can, however, choose to present links in other ways, such as by using buttons, images, or non-underlined text. Your main consideration when making a style choice for a link is that it be immediately recognizable as a link. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Links are used in digital text to reroute readers to other locations. You should make links very obvious so readers see them easily. Links are typically blue, underlined text but can be text in other formats, buttons, images, and other options.
- You can create many links simply by copying and pasting a web address or an e-mail address into your text. Within a software application, you will sometimes have to use the software’s method of link formation.
- You should do your best to make sure you are not using dead links. Try to choose links that will last as long as you need to use them. Check that a link works when you initially use it. Then, in long-term-use situations such as a website, periodically check that your links are still good.
Working on a Wiki
Because course management systems are not really designed for collaborative composition courses, they’re not really ideal for group writing projects. Wikis, another type of collaborative technology tool, are beginning to replace course management systems for certain kinds of collaboration because they can make group work much more convenient, visible, and meaningful. Professors can set up a wiki as a free online collaborative platform that offers workspace for class-wide group or individual projects. Within a site, individuals can have private workspaces to which other students do not have access unless the site “owner” invites them. Students can use a wiki to gather notes and compile a writing project from beginning to end. Within a wiki, students can save all versions of a draft allowing for retrieval of previous information. Being able to save different versions also allows multiple students to edit, for example, Pete’s draft so that Pete can then access all the edits and choose the changes he wishes to make.
Since each student has a private log-in and password, wikis can easily keep track of who made what changes and when the changes were made. You can even use the settings on your wiki account to have it send you an e-mail whenever someone adds something to your space. Students and teachers can also upload files and place links on the wiki to relevant materials elsewhere on the Internet, such as to an American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) citation builder. Wikis also offer a platform for publishing the final version of a project for viewing by the instructor, other classmates, and even the general public, if desired.
Working in a Group Online
Both education and business regularly take advantage of online collaboration. In education, students are often asked to collaborate online to discuss course readings, to work on group projects, or to edit each other’s work. In business, employees often work together online to brainstorm and develop ideas and projects. The online environment allows people who are in different physical locations to work together virtually. In addition, online collaboration sites allow everyone to keep track of each participant’s contributions.
Some basic etiquette rules apply to all online collaboration situations. You will notice that many of the rules hold true for any group work situation. Group work is often lopsided and unfair—a few tend to do most of the work. The following guidelines will help make working in a group less stressful for all involved:
- Do your fair share. You would be ill advised to try shirking your part of the work in an online situation since the collaboration program will keep track of each participant’s contributions.
- Most sites will maintain all versions of a document or file being drafted collaboratively. As a rule, you should always work in the most current version unless the group mutually decides to revert to a previous version.
- Determine which group member is best able to complete different technology aspects of the project, such as scanning, uploading, and creating diagrams. If all members of the group are expected to perform certain technological tasks, make sure the learning curve is not too steep by writing explicit directions. Discussing such aspects up front will make the project go more smoothly.
Social Aspects of Working in an Online Group Situation
If the group seems to be going around in circles, consider a conference call (over the computer or by telephone). With an in-person (or at least synchonous) conversation, you can often straighten out issues that are difficult to handle through chains of e-mails.
On the other hand, if you need to talk to only one member of the group, do so through e-mail. Save the group site for communication intended for the whole group.
Keep in mind that written words do not include voice intonations or facial expressions and are thus more easily misunderstood than are in-person spoken words. If a group member’s comment strikes you the wrong way, give the person the benefit of the doubt instead of being defensive.
Creating an E-portfolio
Just a few years ago, a portfolio, or collection of your work, would most likely have been a collection of printed papers arranged in a file folder or hand-bound into a booklet. Today you are just as likely to create an e-portfolio, a digital collection of your work that is usually accessible to others online. Whether paper or digital, the purpose of a portfolio remains for you to showcase and reflect upon your skills.
General Portfolio Guidelines
As with any other kind of communication, base your portfolio planning on your reasons for building one. For example, you might design a portfolio to apply for admission or scholarships to colleges, to apply for a job, to network with other professionals in your field, to complete a school assignment, to collect your artistic work, or to explore a personal interest. The following guidelines are useful for all portfolios, regardless of whether they are designed to meet an academic, professional, aesthetic, or social purpose:
- Consider carefully your choices of what to include (known as artifacts) and choose those that showcase the most impressive variety of your skills. If you are a writer, showcase different writing skills or a progression in the development of your writing skills (showing “before” and “after” drafts). If you are a salesperson, showcase different types of sales accomplishments.
- Keep the number of choices under ten in an employment portfolio so that a prospective employer could reasonably look at all the options. If you have multiple categories, such as writing samples, work accomplishments, and volunteer experiences, you could consider having up to ten items within each category.
- Read through all the choices to make sure you are 100-percent pleased about the content. Do not rely on memory to tell you that an item is OK to use.
- Label and date each selection.
- Create an explanation of each chosen item.
- Make sure all your selected items are free of errors.
- Arrange your selections from most to least impressive unless you have a reason to arrange them differently, such as in chronological order, keeping in mind that someone might start through your portfolio and not finish it.
Electronic Portfolio Guidelines
Follow these guidelines to take better advantage of the forms, functions, and features an online environment can bring to portfolios:
- Create an introductory page with links to the other pages. Make sure the introductory page is short enough to minimize scrolling.
- Consider establishing or incorporating some kind of social presence (perhaps with an appropriate photo or with an audio or video greeting) on the introductory page. Make sure your tone (the relationship between your portfolio’s voice and your audience) achieves an appropriate level of formality, depending on the working relationship you already have with your audience.
- Include a one-line description of each link as a pre-introduction to the portfolio item when you list the links on the introductory page.
- Choose whether to include multimedia pieces, such as video and audio clips, depending on the capabilities of the site where you are posting your portfolio.
- Convert each page or file to a PDF or a JPEG so that you can be assured that the formatting will remain fixed. After you create each PDF file or JPEG, open it to make sure it converted properly.
- Traverse your e-portfolio thoroughly when you’re finished building it to check out all the links and make sure everything is working and looks OK. Then ask a friend to do the same on a different computer. Ideally you should road test the portfolio from both a PC and a Mac platform. By road testing, you are effectively anticipating your portfolio’s reception (the relationship between your audience and the message you are conveying).
- Include a link to a self-profile as well as a link to your résumé.
- Keep your e-portfolio up to date. This task is especially important if your e-portfolio is posted where others can access it without your knowledge.
You could present your work on your personal website using web features, such as homepages, navigation buttons, links to other sites, buttons that activate audio and video segments, and overall visual presentations. As a college student, you should only present your work this way when instructed to do so by your instructor. Since not all students have a personal website, this option is still not widely used as a means of presenting college work; however, some instructors are moving in this direction, especially as digital portfolios become an increasingly common expectation.
Whether you create a site to supplement a résumé, to serve as a common, virtual family meeting place, or to showcase individual or collaborative work you’ve done for a class, you should follow some basic guidelines to make sure your website is aesthetically pleasing and well organized, so that it functions well and accomplishes its purpose.
Making a Website Aesthetically Pleasing
Use relevant photos, graphics, and font variations to give your site interest. Leave plenty of white space. A crowded web page is not inviting. Use an easily readable font and font size with ample leading. Small tight text is hard to read and many Internet searchers will skip such a site and move on to the abundance of other choices. Take care when choosing background and font colors. Make sure your background does not engulf the text making it hard to read. As a rule, make your background light and your text dark. Take care when choosing background effects. A very busy background can detract from your content.
Making a Website Well Organized
Plan for little or no scrolling. Instead include clearly marked navigation links to move to different parts of the information. Include navigation links to all parts of the website from all pages so a person never feels stuck on a page. Design an overall look that holds from page to page to give your website consistency. Use an easily recognizable format for navigation links so that they clearly stand out.
Making a Website Work Well
Use images that are between forty and one hundred kilobytes to ensure clear images that are easily and quickly loaded on most people’s computers. Since one hundred kilobytes is the maximum suggested size, you will have your best luck if you stay well below that level. Match your level of use of technology tools to your needs. Don’t add features just to try to make your site impressive. Remember that the more features you add, the more likely it is that someone will have trouble with your site. Some people’s computers will have trouble with very involved opening pages that include audio and video. If you choose such an opening page, also include an override button for people who can’t or don’t want to view the opening page. Make sure all the links and paths are very obvious and that they all work smoothly.
Making a Website Accomplish Its Purpose
Make sure the home page is uncluttered and clearly states the purpose of the website. This is the main chance you have of attracting attention. Make the website as visual as possible. The more quickly a person can glance through web content, the more likely the person is to take in the information. You can make a site visual by including subheadings that stand out, relevant images, short blocks of text, white space between blocks of text, and numbered or bulleted lists. Keep the website up to date. Depending on the content and purpose of the website, keeping it up to date could be a daily, weekly, or monthly chore. Consider that a site that is out of date ceases to be visited. Include a contact link so viewers can reach you. Remember that anyone with Internet can access your site. Take care with the information you post. Always assume that your instructors, employers, parents, or friends will see it.
developing an oral presentation
In public speaking, keep in mind that you are trying to achieve the golden middle ground between impromptu (off-the-cuff) speaking that can lead to a chaotic and unorganized mess versus completely robotic reading from a large body of text, which will put your audience to sleep. That middle ground is called extemporaneous speaking, based on the technique of speaking from notes.
You can present orally in person or online. If you present orally online, you can do so with just sound or with the use of a camera that allows your listeners to see you. Many laptops include built-in cameras and microphones that make it surprisingly easy for you to create a social, visual presence.
Whether you are presenting in person or online, you need to set yourself up to present without having to remember everything you want to say. One way to create prompters that you can use very smoothly is to use PowerPoint slides that you can show as you talk and that can prompt your memory about what you want to say. When you use a PowerPoint in this way, you only see information your audience is looking at so you never have a problem with trying to look at your notes too much. One grave pitfall to this method is the tendency to read from the PowerPoint slides, which can be very boring for your audience, who also presumably can read. A good oral presentation from PowerPoint should be just as extemporaneous as one delivered from note cards.
If using a PowerPoint is not an option, you can present orally using note cards. When using cards, number them to assure they are in the proper order. Since you don’t want to read your cards, don’t write out your entire speech on the cards. Instead use only cues and place one idea per card so that you can turn to the next card as you transition to the next idea. On your note cards, use text that is large enough for you to easily read at a glance. On the back of the card, add additional details in a smaller font in case you must check out information beyond the basic cue.
When you use a PowerPoint, you can have built-in visuals, but when you use cards, you need to consider adding visuals in the form of items, posters, images on a computer screen (local file or one found on the Internet), handouts, and so on. Display visuals or pass out handouts when you want your audience to look at them, otherwise they are likely to be checking out your visuals when you want them to be listening to you.
Keep your audience members in mind when you plan your presentation. Based on their knowledge of your topic, interest in your topic, and attitudes about your topic, decide how basic, how long, and how in-depth your presentation will be.
The amount of preparation you put into the speech in advance will make all the difference. Allow ample time to practice your oral presentation several times. If you are presenting in person or with a computer camera, you might want to record it or practice it in front of a mirror so you can visually see how your presentation comes across and can make desired adjustments. If you have a tendency to talk quickly all the time or when you are nervous, practice talking at a slower pace so your audience will have an easier time following you. Make sure you can consistently talk loudly enough for the whole audience to hear you. If your voice isn’t loud enough, consider using a microphone since an audience that cannot hear quickly becomes unhappy.
While you are practicing, keep track of the amount of time your presentation takes so you can lengthen it or shorten it as needed to meet requirements. If feasible, stand while you present so you will make the strongest possible impression. If you are presenting in person, face your audience and make eye contact with your audience members.
Plan to open your presentation with an attention-grabbing comment, visual, activity, joke, story, or situation. If you capture your audience’s attention at the very beginning, you have a chance of keeping it throughout your presentation. On the other hand, if you lose the audience’s attention at the beginning, it will be very difficult to regain it.
Keep in mind that you do not have to share every detail of your essay in an oral presentation based on it. Choose a few highlights and focus on them in an effort to give a general idea about your work. Speak directly and personally to your audience, using first-person and second-person pronouns like “I,” “you,” and “we.” Use simple sentences that are easy to follow and include visuals of unfamiliar terms. Stay in tune with your audience so you know when they are keenly interested and would appreciate additional elaboration as well as when they are losing interest, which signals that it would be wise to move onto the next topic.
Conclude your presentation by referring back to the interest-grabbing opener or offering another appropriate anecdote or memorable quotation, phrase, comment, or image. When you finish presenting, ask your audience members if they have any questions. If possible, allow as much time as needed to address all questions. Then thank your audience for their attention to your presentation.
If you are nervous about your presentation, keep in mind that nervousness is normal and that it can help bring energy to your presentation. And implement the following ideas to help you remain calm and in control:
- Know your material thoroughly so you can easily immerse yourself in talking about it. Then remind yourself that you know the materials and will easily be able to share what you know.
- Write out your opening sentence or two so you get started on track even if you plan to speak extemporaneously for the balance of the speech.
- Stay with your plan. If you nervously start talking aimlessly, you can easily find yourself beginning with points that belong in different parts of your presentation and have a difficult time getting back on track to present your information in the intended order.
- Get all ready and then sit down and relax. Do not start immediately following a frenzied setup period.
When you are presenting online, keep the following tips in mind:
- Practice so that your timing is smooth, you know for sure how to use the technology, and your presentation appears polished. If you are using a PowerPoint, make sure each point matches up with the PowerPoint slide that is showing.
- Do not read PowerPoint slides. Your audience can read for themselves. Use your slides to enhance what you are saying.
- Make sure that you have everything you need right by your computer so that you do not have to leave the computer (or the camera) at any time. You can write a script for each slide and read the script while also adding related commentary as it makes sense.
- Keep in mind that your audience cannot benefit from any of your facial expressions or body movements if they cannot see you. And even if you are using a camera, they might not be able to see you clearly enough to get information sent through expressions or movements. So be very careful to use words vividly to convey your complete message.
- Talk slowly and enunciate clearly to give your audience the best possible chance of understanding you. People often have trouble understanding speech over the Internet.
- Make sure your audience members know how to get your attention during the presentation if you are planning to allow them to ask questions.
- Look directly at the camera to give the effect of eye contact with your audience members in video presentations.
- Keep in mind that everything you say and every noise you make, such as the screech of a scooting chair, can be heard or seen by the audience. Also, if you have a camera, remember that every facial expression and other things you do can possibly be seen.
- Be relaxed and professional, and most of all, be yourself. You’re not filming a major motion picture or putting on a Broadway show. Think about the kind of voice and image you would want to listen to online or in person.
- Content adapted from “Chapter 10: Publishing” and licensed under CC BY NC SA.
- Content adapted from “Chapter 13: Writing on and for the Web” and licensed under CC BY NC SA.