A pointing stick from a Lenovo T400 Laptop keyboard.

How to improve your presentations with just one click [Part 1]

“Improve your presentations with just one click” would underestimate what we do in Accessibility@Swat. However, by clicking on and reading this article, you have already taken a step to improve your presentations for a wider range of audiences. And I do have one click that will improve your presentations.

Creating your presentation

When creating a presentation, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your presentation is accessible for everyone. Keep reading to find out what you need to click just once for a more accessible presentation.

Plan your presentation with accessibility in mind.

  • Know where you’re presenting and to whom.
  • Include an accommodations statement which identifies a point of contact for accommodations requests.
  • Think about how you can make your presentation accessible for different learning styles and abilities, i.e., if they learn by seeing, hearing, or some other way.
  • If you are using slides, make sure to use large font sizes and clear images.
    • We suggest sans-serif fonts,
    • at least 24-point font for titles,
    • and at least 18-point font for the body.
    • Find the highest resolution photo you can find, as people who rely on magnification must be able to do so up to 400% of the image. Look for 150dpi at the least. Lower resolution appears pixelated.
  • If you are presenting virtually, be sure you know how to enable closed captioning.

Use clear and concise language.

This will help ensure that your message is understood by everyone in the audience, including:

  • folks for whom the language of the presentation is a second language;
  • attendees who have cognitive disabilities;
  • folks who have been distracted for a moment.

Finally, write out acronyms fully the first time you use them so that attendees will understand them each time thereafter.

Use images and visuals to supplement your presentation.

Use high-contrast colors.

Convey meaning with words.

  • Screen readers and text-to-speech assistive technology will not read italicized or bolded text any differently than text with no formatting. Ask yourself your intention when bolding or italicizing something. Is it important? Then write, “Important:” before it, or something to that effect. Of course, if it’s part of a citation, that’s a bit different. 
  • Reserve underlining for hyperlinks only.

Ensure reading order.

Most software designed for presentations involves text boxes, which are not accessible. Here’s some suggestions to make your presentation read out loud in the correct order:

  • Include a unique title in each slide, even if it’s “Newton’s Law, 2,” etc.
  • Use one text box in the body per slide.
  • If you must use more than one text box, create them in the order in which you want them to be read in or reorder them utilizing the software’s tools. Otherwise, a screen reader will read them in an incorrect order.

Prior to the presentation

Before you give the presentation, but after you’ve already planned it, a best practice would be to share the presentation with the folks who have planned to attend. Keep reading to find out what you need to click just once for a more accessible presentation.

Share slides prior to the presentation.

  • This allows for attendees to download them in order to take notes on them in print or electronically as needed or preferred.
  • It also allows attendees to develop questions or consult readings or text books for answers in advance if that is how they best learn.

Share slides in the original format.

  • Provide the original file in its original format (e.g. .pdf, .pptx, .docx, Google Slides), for ease of note-taking, different needs or preferences, and ease of access.
  • If this is not possible, share the file in multiple formats for the same reason.

Sharing slides with your attendees in advance and in multiple formats is helpful in that you will reach more people. 

Tune in next time…

We’ll share the one click that will improve your presentations, and we’ll also give you tips to improve your presentations as you are presenting.


Notes and Acknowledgements

The author generated this text in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.

The author is grateful to their colleagues at Swarthmore for their feedback in developing this post, especially Andrew Ruether [@aruethe2], Corrine Schoeb [@kschoeb1], and Doug Willen [@dwillen1]. Doug was especially helpful with very thorough authoring and edits.