13: presenting your research

October 26, 2015 – 10:00 am

We’ve all been there: that presentation that was death by PowerPoint… Presenting your research well is of course about more than the tools you use, but thinking critically about those tools can also help you to reflect on the structure and pitch of your presentation itself. Thing 13 looks at a number of presentation tools that provide a more dynamic alternative to PowerPoint.


Since its inception and dominance of the presentation market in the mid-1980s, PowerPoint has provided an effective but linear approach to creating and sharing research content. Researchers now have the option of creating and sharing their work using more high-end digital presentation tools which navigate more like a website. These new tools such as Prezi, Slides and presentation-sharing platform Slideshare offer greater features and sharing capacity, and many might confess, a welcome change from your standard PowerPoint presentation.  Here we will outline a few popular tools on offer and how these can be used to enhance your research.

[Note: Before you begin presenting your information, ensure that you understand your audience and you deliver the how, what and why of your research effectively].


Prezi is a web-based presentation program that allows users the freedom to manipulate their own narrative.  You can zoom in, pan out and layer information.  If used effectively, you can adopt a non-linear approach while easily highlighting key points.

Why would Prezi be helpful to researchers?  First, it’s different and tends to make audiences sit up and take notice. Second, and more importantly, as a non-linear presentation, it can help you to reconceptualise your ideas and think about what you’re trying to say in a new way.

Take a look at this great summary and presentation by Ned Potter from the London School of Economics: “Your ‘how-to’ guide to using Prezi in an academic environment”.

Ned just posted this on ‘Using Prezi in an academic library‘.


When used well these tools can communicate information effectively.  However, if the structure and development of storyline has not been planned properly, it can leave audiences bamboozled.

Think about:

  • Coherence:  Prezi gives you the freedom to place objects anywhere.  This is great but think carefully and have a planned structure.  The cohesion of object placement should happen naturally as a result.
  • While the zooming feature is fun, it can give people motion sickness if over-used (this is a constant criticism by some).  Be careful when you use it and try to ensure it has a practical purpose within your presentation besides from being a neat trick.
  • Your visual theme: make it consistent in terms of colours, fonts and shapes.
  • As a researcher, you can upgrade to an Educational Licence for free providing you sign up with an academic email address.  This will allow you more storage space and set your Prezis to ‘private’.

Here are some great guides and examples of Prezi usage:

Try this:

  • Don’t let the medium confuse the message.  Make sure you design and structure your presentation to effectively communicate your message.
  • Read the helpful tips from the examples provided above before designing your own.  A great Prezi show is wonderful – a bad one will may be off putting to your audience.
  • Spend a bit of time to plan and experiment
  • Start simple
  • Use transition options wisely (common complaint is motion sickness)


Slides is a free web-based slide editor and presentation tool which makes use of open-source presentation frameworks such as Reveal.js. Founded in early 2013, Slides is a presentation tool with a slick interface and dynamic presentation features, including non-linear slide progression, various transition options and themes, and the option to customise via a CSS editor. Slide decks are stored as HTML documents that allow users to edit via mark-up. Users also have the option of “forking” or using other people’s designs and layouts as templates for their own work. For researchers working in groups, you have the option of signing up for a “Team” account, which enables you to custom brand your presentations and own your own subdomain.

Slides’ sharing features include the option to email your slide deck, export it as a PDF, share online via the Slides platform or print for your audience. Its presentation features include the standard option to present offline or live to an audience. Dropbox synching is also available as well as the very handy availability of a revision history option, which allows users to revert or roll back to a previously saved version of your work.

Try this

  • Slides is very user-friendly, try setting up a free account and a test slide deck (it should only take you about 10 minutes).
  • Explore Featured and Popular decks.
  • Keep consistent colour theme
  • Slides can be plain – make use of colour and images

Useful links


Also known as the “YouTube for Slideshows”, Slideshare is not so much a presentation content creator or editor but rather a platform for publicising and sharing your research. Launched in 2006 and owned by LinkedIn, Slideshare is a free web-based slide-hosting service, which allows users to upload their work in various forms such as PDF, PowerPoint, Keynotes or Open Document. Slide-decks can be viewed on the website itself and commented upon, rated and shared by viewers.

The purpose of Slideshare is for users to share knowledge online and discover research content in their field. Slideshare topics range from Arts and Photography, to Business, Social Media and Education.

Try this

  • Upload a PowerPoint presentation to Slideshare
  • Explore slides in your research area and comment and/or “like”.
  • Take a look at some people who might be useful to follow on Slideshare? For instance I follow Judy O’Connell as she posts interesting presentations on topics I am interested in.

Advantages to Slideshare

  • Most popular presentation sharing platform
  • SEO (search engine optimisation) benefits if using tags and naming titles effectively
  • Option to discover content on research topics

Disadvantages to Slideshare

  • Be wary of copyright when uploading content
  • Be wary of credibility of content uploaded by users

Copyright Considerations for Prezi, Slides and Slideshare

When showcasing your research online using these tools, you need to make sure you are able to do so compliantly.  It is important to ensure you have permission to use any material that you have not created yourself in your presentations that you make using these platforms.  Depending on how you intend to present your research, you may be able to use Creative Commons licensed content.  Your ability to use your research in presentations on these platforms may also depend on any research or funding agreements you may have to be sure to seek advice before proceeding.

Other presentation tools.

There are more tools of course…Prezi, SlideShare and Slides are just a few.

These tools give you the opportunity to store all your research presentations or teaching material in one place. Maybe you gave a presentation at a conference, and you’d like other people to have access to it (or you’d like other people to see that you’ve been providing expert comment on the topic). Perhaps you use presentations as teaching tools, and you want your students to have access to lectures after the class. These sites bring your presentations to a much wider audience than you can ever hope to reach with handouts or even an institutional website. They also let you embed your presentations in blogs and websites.

Many of these sites let you upload PDFs as well as PowerPoints and other formats, so your ‘presentation’ could even be a simple handout.

Question/task for thing 13: 

Pick a presentation tool, preferably one you haven’t used before. Explore. Think about when or how you might or might not use these sites, and explain their use to a researcher.

Further reading

Image credit from above:
In York; official town crier Hamar (Tug) Wilson was master of ceremonies during a children’s show in Coronation Park; which included a boy born in Italy singing O Canada in French. Eglinton Avenue West became a parking lot around the municipal building; Mayor Philip White estimated the crowd at 18;000.. [Photograph]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

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  1. 13 Responses to “13: presenting your research”

  2. I’ve never used or explored Speaker Deck so that was my pick for this ‘thing’. Weird. I don’t get it. It seems like the laziest presentation tool for people who don’t want to give a presentation ergo want to spend no time designing a presentation. If you haven’t tried Speaker Deck, you make a pdf, upload it and that’s your presentation. The only benefit I can see is that it is online and there is an embed/share feature. The pdf that you upload still needs to be made somewhere so you’re using 2 or more applications for ‘this thing’. Also, if you just wanted to click through a pdf you made yourself in another application – I can’t fathom why you wouldn’t just upload your pdf to dropbox (which has share options) and just click through it from there? After using and exploring ‘this thing’, then reflecting on the experience and its possible use – I still don’t get it and I’m okay with that.

    By Tatum on Oct 29, 2015

  3. Yes – I do think it’s a round about way to do things?
    (making note to possibly remove this one in any future programs…)

    By ACULibrary on Oct 29, 2015

  4. I really liked the “Steal this Presentation” slides by Jesse Desjardins in the Further Reading section. He gave some really good tips on how to build an effective presentation (and what not to do). Tips that can be applied to whatever software you use to deliver your message.

    I have seen a lot of Prezi presentations, so had a look at some Slideshare examples this time. I also had a look at the Note & Point site – clicked on an interesting slide deck (Top 20 Design Myths) – hmmm… it loads like a multipage pdf – slowly…

    In both cases I found presentations where I wanted to have a version with sound! I think the concept behind making slides of presentations available is a good one; but it can sometimes feel like having only half the story.

    By Colleen on Nov 9, 2015

  5. I’ve never used a presentation tool before. I’ve made tiny modifications to other people’s PowerPoint presentations, but I’ve never created my own.
    I decided to try Slides, but fell at the first hurdle: I couldn’t work out how to change the default text (ie “text”) in a box. I’ll have another go tomorrow.
    Ned Potter’s blog post on using Prezi in an academic environment is definitely worth reading, and I enjoyed his Prezi “9 useful educational tools…”. I liked the way he kept coming back to the “complete picture” slide, giving me an overview of where he’d been and where he was going to go. There was a little bit of dizziness watching the Prezi on my computer, but it would probably be quite ok if I watched it projected onto a screen. Interesting contents too…

    By Gertrud on Nov 11, 2015

  6. Finally figured out how to add text to a slide. I haven’t yet tried anything fancy such as transition options, but Slides seems easy enough to use after a bit of practice. There is no slideshow privacy for a free account, so if the hypothetical (poor?) research student is at all concerned about privacy, I’d have to recommend against using Slides.

    By Gertrud on Nov 12, 2015

  7. I was a big fan of Prezi when it first came out, but I find it too much work to create a simple presentation when compared to PowerPoint. I like Slideshare to be able to share presentations and have found some useful presentations by other librarians there, such as this one on systematic searching with PubMed: http://www.slideshare.net/featherr/clinical-epidemiology-systematic-pubmed-searching-workshop
    I had a look at Note & Point which I had never heard of before. I’m not sure about uploading to it – it seems like a site to serve as inspiration for others when designing presentations, and mine certainly wouldn’t win design awards. When I’m studying I prefer clean white and black powerpoints with key points and relevant links, easy to print and revise with. But I guess it depends upon your need – if you are presenting at a conference or workshop you want to engage and keep everyone’s interest.

    By Tracy Bruce on Nov 25, 2015

  8. Content and what you want to say will always be king or queen 🙂
    I have found that a great presentation can be made on many of the different tools available, including PowerPoint and Prezi! And Slideshare is a great place to share and to find inspiration!

    By ACULibrary on Dec 22, 2015

  9. And you have the option to work back…think of a great presentation…and what made it so?

    By ACULibrary on Dec 22, 2015

  10. Can I be an old biddy and say I prefer to stay with Prezi? That said, you have to know who your audience is, I was set to present at a conference and a friend advised me that the audience at this particular conference was about 70 and if I was doing a Prezi I would have to begin with the warning of “this performance uses strobbing lights” So… use the tool that is best for your audience.
    I had a look at Slideshare and, like Colleen felt that I was missing part of the story but then after reading Steal this presentation I guess that is a good thing so I pinch the images but not the ideas.I have to say I think sharing presentations is a really good idea for if you are giving a class because you can just tell the audience where they can find the presentation, assuming they have listened to the presentation, they can refer back to the visuals if needed.

    By Nica on Jan 14, 2016

  11. I think that’s best- use the best tool for your audience. I have seen great PPT and bad PPT, but equally bad Prezi, and great Prezi!! SlideShare is great to follow for certain people…people who you may follow at conferences or like…

    By ACULibrary on Feb 5, 2016

  12. I like powerpoint, I think Prezi is a bit dizzy. I like the idea of a webbased program for presentations that you can view on your phone as well. I looked at the Slides tool.

    By Sally on Jan 15, 2016

  13. And of course, it’s what works for you and your audience 🙂

    By ACULibrary on Feb 5, 2016

  14. It has taken me a long time to appreciate Prezi as a platform. I’m one of the audience who suffers from motion sickness so feel extremely dizzy after a Prezi demonstration. I did an interesting comparison recently where I attended a couple of Staff Development workshops. One was delivered using the standard PowerPoint and the other used Prezi. Though the workshops were the same period in length, I was far more tired after the Prezi presentation as I had to concentrate on where the information was to read and what I could take in. With PP at least things stay on the screen for a while for those of us who need a match of visual and audio at times to be able to actually take the take-home message home :. I had a joint presentation developed and made available in SlideShare. It’s relatively easy to link to and doesn’t zoom around the page.

    By Helena on Jan 25, 2016

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