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STScI Webcasting: Presentation Guidelines and Tips

To reach the largest possible audience and achieve the greatest understanding of your material, The STScI Webcast Team has developed guidelines for preparing the presentations that will be accompanying your talk. These guidelines ensure that the both the live and Internet audience will have the best possible experience in viewing your presentation.

We have created a Powerpoint Presentation Guideline which illustrates the optimum point size, fonts, colors, safe-areas, graphs, and tables. These recommendations will result in presentations that are viewable by the live audience and in all media formats of the archived webcast.

Creating Effective Presentations


  • Don't overload your slides with too much text or data.
  • Think FOCUS. In general using fewer targeted slides to support your presentation is more effective.
  • Let the picture or graphic tell the story. Avoid text.
  • Avoid creating "busy" layouts that will be difficult to view at smaller sizes.
  • Number your slides and give them a title.
  • Proof read everything, including visuals and numbers.
  • Backgrounds should never distract from the presentation.
  • Using the default white background is hard on the viewer's eyes. You can easily add a design style or a color to the background.
  • Backgrounds that are light colored with dark text, or vice versa, look good. A dark background with white font reduces glare.
  • Colors appear lighter when projected. Pale colors often appear as white.
  • Consistent backgrounds add to a professional appearance.


  • Font size must be large enough to be easily read. 28 to 34 point text with a bold font is recommended.
  • Try to limit the number of fonts used in the presentaton; using too wide a variety of fonts can be distracting.
  • In general, sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica or Aral are easier to read than serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino.
  • Simplify and limit the number of words on each screen. Use key phrases and include only essential information.
  • Limit punctuation and avoid putting words in all capital letters. Empty space on the slide will enhance readability.
  • Avoid footnotes unless you expect them not to be read.


  • Generally, try to use medium weight to heavy lines.
  • Bright colors make small objects and thin lines stand out. However, some vibrant colors are difficult to read when projected.
  • Light colored lines wash out when viewed from a distance unless they are very heavy and on a very dark background.
  • Avoid small images which will tend to blur when viewed in a webcast
  • Charts need to be clearly labeled. You can make more interesting charts by adding elements from the drawing toolbar.

Public Speaking

  • Avoid the fig leaf. Speakers often hold their hands in the fig leaf position, seemingly protecting their crotches or behind. Neither position conveys authority; both prohibit you from gesturing.
  • Don't clasp your hands. Many speakers habitually wring their hands or tightly clasp them at their stomachs. Such moves convey nervousness.
  • Stop fiddling. Rattling coins in pockets is a problem for some. Others can't stop playing with their eyeglasses or jewelry. Another common distraction is buttoning or unbuttoning one's jacket.
  • Keep your arms to your sides. Try not to clasp your arms across your chest, as it will make you appear stern and inflexible. Hands on your hips make you look bossy or prissy, not confident and credible. Let your arms fall to your sides, where they're in a position to move naturally as you become engrossed in sharing your message.
  • Don't gesture repeatedly in the same manner. Add variety to your gestures. If you use the same gesture again and again, it will seem staged and lose impact. The audience's attention will begin to wander because of this predictability.
  • Eliminate choppy or frenetic gesturing. You should strive for gestures that reflect your message, such as sweeping gestures if you are attempting to show a vast expanse. If your gestures are uncontrolled or wild, they'll distract from the speech.
  • Make the gesture fit the emotion. If your intent is to convey anger or disgust, a small, dismissive wave isn't an adequate gesture; it could even undermine your credibility. Instead, pound your fist, wave your arms or point at documents.
  • Make gestures fit the space. Tiny constrained gestures might suffice if you're speaking to a small group, but they'll be less effective in a large auditorium or a hotel conference room. Expand your gestures in a larger space and before a larger crowd so that they'll be visible.
  • Know your lectern options. You don't want to create a buffer between you and the audience, Dempsey says, so standing behind a massive lectern is a poor choice. The audience will only see your head and shoulders and you will be unable to use any body language.
  • Find out beforehand how to control room temperature. We all know that if a room is too warm, the audience will become drowsy and inattentive. If you can't control the temperature, find out who can.
  • Know what type of microphone will be available. Will it be handheld or hands-free? Will there be sufficient cord to permit you to move freely about the room? You should know this going in to eliminate any awkwardness. It is also suggested to arrive at least an hour early to test the microphone and make necessary adjustments (this is applicable for laptops and other presentation materials). If you find out you'll be holding a microphone, rehearse your presentation as such. Use a pencil, a ruler or any other object that will acclimate you to keeping the microphone near your face throughout the presentation. If you can, videotape yourself as you practice.
  • Find out who will introduce you. You'll want to control your introduction to ensure that it creates a seamless transition into your presentation. Never leave this crucial detail to chance. Provide notes to the appropriate person well in advance of the speech and bring a backup copy in case it gets lost.
  • Know when you'll be speaking. A speech heavy on content is perfectly acceptable in the morning when audiences are fresh and attentive, but not at the end of the day or following a meal. Typically, a late-day presentation would be kept light and more entertaining. If you're the last speaker of the day, you might consider cutting portions of your prepared presentation and focus on a few important points. Don't be afraid to cut a one-hour presentation down to 15 minutes. And let your audience know you're doing so; they'll appreciate your sensitivity and be more inclined to tune in.

Recommended Fonts

The following fonts are recommended for best compatibility between MacOS and Windows versions of Powerpoint:

  • Arial
  • Arial Black
  • Courier New
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana
  • Webdings
  • Wingdings