Most of us in the ATE community have to do a variety of presentations each year, from informal talks for colleagues at a brown bag lunch or on a Zoom call, to more formal presentations for a webinar or at a conference. And now during the pandemic, we find ourselves needing to give a lot of these presentations online, which adds its own set of technical challenges on top of those we already face when we present. Regardless of the content or platform, it’s important that our efforts be made accessible, in order to reach as many people as possible.
Tip Sheet: Creating Accessible Presentations
In thinking about the guidance provided in the tip sheet from the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and AccessATE, it may good to consider that presentations can be essentially divided into two types: in-person and online. When presenting in person, there are physical accessibility factors to consider that have nothing to do with the content of the presentation itself. Whenever possible, it’s best to scope out the location of in-person events in advance. Consider the lighting and layout of the space; screen projections can be difficult to view if the room is too bright. On the other hand, any props, whiteboards, or printed material may be hard to see if the room is too dim. You also need to ensure that you – and, if applicable, your ASL interpreter – are visible. Also check the acoustics of the room. The larger the space, the louder you will need to speak; a microphone may be necessary. This is also true if the space contains a lot of soft furniture, which absorbs sound. When it comes to your materials for an in-person presentation, bear in mind that using multiple media – slides, print-outs, props, etc – can aid audience understanding and retention, so ensure that these are accessible too when you utilize them. Finally, if you are providing any kind of demonstration, including anything prerecorded on video, be sure to describe what you’re doing aloud. This is not only helpful for any blind or low vision audience members, but also for those seated far back or just in a spot where it’s hard to see. And of course, make sure any videos you use are captioned (see the AccessATE tip sheet on Creating Accessible Videos).
While many in-person presentation tips carry over, there are additional steps to consider for online platforms. First and foremost, you should ensure that your internet connection is strong and secure, and that your lighting, camera, and microphone are all of good quality. Eliminate distractions in and around your presenting space as much as possible; set your phone to silent and place it out of view, and make sure your background is simple and neutral. If a sign language interpreter is needed, ensure that they are also clearly visible, either with you in frame or in their own, or opt for live captioning if possible. Bear in mind that online presentations are generally harder for audiences to pay consistent attention to, so it’s best to try to make virtual presentations more interactive and, if possible, shorter than usual. If applicable, send out materials in advance via email. Finally, record your presentation for archiving and to send out to anyone who may have been unable to attend, and make sure to add captioning if you didn’t caption live.
Below are some additional resources on giving good presentations, both in general and in virtual format. Remember to ensure that your materials and the recording of your presentation are themselves accessible – check out the Creating Accessible PDFs and Creating Accessible Videos entries for more info on that!
- University of Washington DO-IT Center: Presentation Tips provides a generous and detailed list of best practices for presenting in all formats. They include tips on accessibility, presentation structure, and even on managing one’s nerves.
- Both Best Practices for Virtual Presentations: 15 Expert Tips That Work for Everyone and 9 Tips for Giving Engaging Virtual Presentations cover valuable considerations for presenting online. As mentioned above, delivering a solid online presentation can be that much more difficult due to the addition of new hurdles, but these articles can help you clear them!
- The 10-20-30 Rule of PowerPoint is a mnemonic to remember to keep things short and simple when using PowerPoint or any other form of slides. It’s not an absolute rule and won’t apply every single time (even the author discusses disregarding it), but it’s a handy way to remind yourself that keeping things concise is key.
- Visual content company Visme provides 29 Presentation Tips that professional presenters use every day. In addition to these pointers, Visme provides services to help you create the best visual content possible, including presentations, charts, graphs, documents, and more, plus storage for your projects. You can sign up for a free, or for paid membership to gain access to additional features.