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Best Foot Forward: Helping 4-H'ers Create Dynamic Presentations

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Publication Number: P2888
View as PDF: P2888.pdf
Text file for accessibility: File p2888_accessible.docx

First Things First

Visual presentations using software such as Microsoft PowerPoint are an important aspect of being a successful 4-H member. Presentations can be helpful as you work through the experiential learning model. Sharing what has happened with others after an activity helps everyone process what is important. It helps you organize your thoughts and encourages you to apply what you have learned. Learning good presentation habits and skills now will help you as you prepare for college and your future career.

This guide will help you create masterful presentations you can use in county demonstrations and contests. Let’s learn by doing!

Before you even turn the computer on, the very first thing you must ask yourself is, “Who is my audience?” Knowing who your audience is will determine what type of presentation you will give, how long it should be, the colors and graphics to use, and so forth. So, who is your audience?

  • My audience is:
  • My audience members consist of (examples: Cloverbuds, junior 4-H’ers, senior 4-H’ers, adults, senior citizens, judges, elected officials):
  • What’s important to my audience?:

Besides knowing your audience, it’s important to know your location. Location, like your audience, can determine how well your presentation is received.

  • I will be presenting at (location):
  • The room size is:
  • Will I need a microphone?:
  • Can people at the back of the room hear me?:
  • Are there any distracting noises (air conditioners, noisy vents, others)?:
  • What type of light is present?:

Coming Up with a Topic

Choosing the right topic is critical to your presentation’s success! Audiences can tell if you are interested in the topic, so be sure to choose a topic you like.

  • Does the presentation have any rules?:
  • Do you have to present on a specific subject?:
  • Is there a time limit?:
  • Off the top of your head (don’t think about it), list three things you like to do and three things you’re interested in:


Pick two of your topics from page 1 (your “likes” and “interested” lists) and list them below. Once you’ve done that, start listing all of things you could possibly talk about during your presentation.

Looking at your ideas listed above, compare them with what you wrote on page 1.

  • Which topic will be of most interest and relevance to your audience? Why?:
  • Which topic are you most comfortable with?:

Research Your Topic

Now that you have a topic in mind, it is time to do some research. Ask your Extension agent if there are 4-H project books that you can look through for ideas and fun facts. Next, you will most likely use the Internet to search for information. While the Internet has a great deal of good information, it is very important to be careful when trusting information you find there.

There are several junior 4-H’er-friendly search engines that allow you to safely search the Internet. They include and SafeSearch from Google. Using a search engine, type in the key words for the topic. For example, if your presentation is about healthy living for teens, your keywords would be “healthy living and teens.” The “and” is what is known as a Boolean operator. It tells the search engine to only find results that include “healthy living” and “teens.” If you were to type “healthy living –teens” into the search engine it would exclude any result that mentioned teens.

Once you find a possible reference site for your article, it is extremely important to verify the information’s accuracy. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the information come from a well-known source?
  2. Is the source credible? (Ask yourself the following: Who wrote it? When was it published? Are there references available? What domain name did it come from? A domain name tells you who is hosting the site. For example, a domain name ending in .edu is from an educational institution.)
  3. Is the information compatible with the information from my 4-H project book, Extension agent, or specialists?

Once you have determined the information is credible, then you are ready to use it as a source or reference in your presentation. As you do your research, be sure to make a note of the article or photo you wish to reference—you’ll need it at the end of your presentation!

The last slide in your presentation is called the reference slide. This allows the audience to see where you got your information if they want to follow up and learn more about your topic.

Each bullet point on the reference slide is a reference. A good presentation will have three to five references. List your references by the author’s last name in alphabetical order.

  • To reference a book: Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Initial. (Year Published). Title of the book. Where it was published. The name of the publishers.
  • To reference a website article: Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Initial. (Year Published, Date Published). Name of the website article. Retrieved from: address goes here.
  • To reference a photo found on the Internet and used in the presentation:
Slide #. Description of picture. Retrieved from: address goes here.

Get Going!

You have your game plan in hand, and now you are ready to start putting your PowerPoint presentation together one slide at a time. Let’s start with the title slide.

Don’t have Microsoft PowerPoint? Download free software called Open Office from that will let you create a presentation much like PowerPoint. What about software like Prezi, Google Drive: Presentation, or Haiku Deck? That depends on where you are presenting and whether or not the location has Internet access. For 4-H competitions, be sure to check with your Extension agent or the specialist in charge of the contest for rules about presentation software.

Making a Title Slide

  1. Left-click on the Microsoft PowerPoint icon (or Start/Programs/Microsoft/Microsoft PowerPoint).
  2. A dialogue box will now appear with a list of possible PowerPoint themes. Select blank presentation.
  3. The title slide will be the first slide your audience sees, so be sure to make it count!

Hmmm...what do I want my audience to take away from the presentation? The title should reflect that in a creative, fun way! How can my title convey that in three to six words? Try creating a title.

The Slide as Your Canvas

To create a background color for your canvas, you have three options: design template, solid color, and gradient. Remember, all of your slides should have the SAME background design!

Applying a Design Template to Your Background

  1. Left-click Design from the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Left-click the More button.
  3. Left-click on the design you want to use. (Notice: Once you select a design, there are variants of that style to the right that give you more options.)
  4. The template will now be applied to the slide. Notice that the design template determines the font style, size, and color.

Once you have your background set, it’s time to figure out what your font style will be. When you select a font style, it’s important to pick a sans serif font. A sans serif font is a font without any “wings.”

Changing Your Font Style

  1. Left-click on the Home tab from the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Locate the Font Style menu and left-click on the drop-down arrow.
  3. Select a sans serif font.

Changing Your Font Color

  1. Select (left-click and drag) the text you wish to change.
  2. Left-click on the Font color icon        
  3. In the drop-down menu, left-click on the color you wish to apply.

On the Road Again

Why do I have to have an agenda (or objectives) slide? The #1 reason you need an agenda slide is that it forces you to organize your thoughts. The #2 reason is that the agenda slide tells your audience where they are going. Think about it. If you’re driving down the highway on the
way to the beach, you’re looking for signs that point to the beach. It is the same for
your audience: If they know where they are going, they know what to listen for and in what direction to go.

Creating a New Slide for the Agenda Slide

  1. Left-click the Home tab on the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Left-click the down arrow next to New Slide, and in the pop-up window, left-click Title and Content.

If you want to make your PowerPoint slides stronger, try creating
grammatically parallel sentences. Huh? Grammatically parallel sentences? What’s that? It’s when each of your sentences (or bullets) starts with the same type of word. Look at the slide below. What do you notice about it?

That’s right! Each bullet starts with the same type of word. Verbs are often used at the beginning of a bullet to create a dynamic presentation that engages the audience.

Do you know the 7x7 rule? The 7x7 rule states that there should be no more than seven vertical lines of text and no more than 7 words in each line. Most presenters tend to want to put all of their information on the slide so they can read the slides. This helps them deal with being nervous, but it makes for a bad presentation. A slide is an aid; it should only be used to guide the audience through the presentation.

The Meat and Potatoes

Content slides are when you give the audience the “meat and potatoes” of your presentation. This is the point in the presentation where you are helping the audience understand your topic. You are the guide—this is where you take each of the objectives (from your agenda slide) and develop them more fully. When it comes to your content slide, ALWAYS have one slide for each major point found on the agenda slide. Don’t try to cram a lot of information onto one slide—remember the 7x7 rule!

Keep in mind that slides don’t have to be all text. A content slide could be made up of photos, graphs/charts, or SmartArt.

Changing the Bullet Style

  1. Left-click the Home tab on the ribbon toolbar.
  2. In the Paragraph menu, locate the bullet icon and left-click.
  3. Left-click on the desired bullet.

Creating a Custom Bullet

  1. Left-click the Home tab on the ribbon toolbar.
  2. In the Paragraph menu, locate the bullet icon and left-click.
  3. Left-click Bullets and Numbering.

  4. Left-click Customize.

  5. In the font menu, left-click on the down arrow, and select Wingdings or Webdings.

  6. Select the desired bullet and left-click OK.
  7. Left-click OK again in the Bullets and Numbering window.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Graphics (clipart or photos) are a great way to get your point across, but they have to be used appropriately. Here are some rules to remember when using graphics:

  • Use graphics that are relevant.

  • Use graphics that draw the audience’s attention.

  • Avoid using animated clipart.

  • Use graphics that reflect your audience’s race, gender, and/or age.

Inserting Clipart

  1. Left-click Insert from the ribbon toolbar.

  2. Left-click Online Pictures.

  3. In the Insert Pictures window, type in a keyword in the ClipArt search window.

  4. Press Enter or left-click Search.

  5. Scroll through the images until you find the image you want.
  6. Left-click on the image and then left-click Insert.

Inserting a Photo

  1. Left-click Insert from the ribbon toolbar.

  2. Left-click Pictures.

  3. Locate the picture in your picture library and left-click Insert.

Moving an Image

  1. Place your cursor in the middle of the image and left-click.

  2. Hold the left mouse button down and drag the photo to the desired location.
  3. Resizing an Image
  4. Select the photo so that the corner handles appear.
  5. Place your cursor on a corner handle. Hold down the left mouse button and drag in to make the image smaller. Drag away from the picture to make it larger.

Wrapping Up

Whew, you’ve almost made it! The last thing you need to do is tie up the loose ends and leave your audience with something to remember. The conclusion slide is the last opportunity you have to impress upon your audience the importance of your speech. Your conclusion slide will mirror your agenda slide, but it will not be an exact copy. In your conclusion, you want to restate the issue, briefly review the highlights, and answer the question, “so what?”

  • What does this information mean to your audience?:
  • Why is it important?:
  • What are they supposed to do with the information?:

How can I end my presentation?

You might end it with a story, quote, visual, or short video. Any story or quote should have meaning; don’t tell a story just for the fun of it—make sure it is relevant to the presentation. Never introduce new information in your conclusion. Keep yourself and your audience focused. It’s important to send your audience out on a good note because it will be the first thing they remember!

Leave time at the end of the presentation for people to ask questions, and be prepared to answer them. What type of questions might people ask about your topic?

Did you know that you return to a slide by pressing the slide number and then the Enter key? (For example, for the seventh slide, press 7, then Enter.) This makes it easy to go back to a slide if the audience needs to see it again.

Printing Handouts

When conducting a presentation or demonstration for your local county Extension program, it may be necessary to provide handouts. If you think the audience will need to take notes during your presentation, do the following:

  1. Left-click File in the ribbon toolbar.

  2. Left-click Print.

  3. Under Settings, left-click the down arrow by Full Page Slide.
  4. In the drop-down menu, select Handouts/3 slides.

This creates blank lines next to your slide for the audience to write on. If you think your audience does not need to take notes during the presentation, tell them at the beginning you will have a handout for them at the conclusion of the presentation. Print Handouts/6 slides to a page to save on paper or Handouts/4 slides if the slides contain graphs or charts that may be difficult to read.


To begin with ... Transitions (both verbal and between your slides) make your presentation smooth and consistent. Transitions are used to link ideas and move you from one point of your speech to the next point. Look at the (verbal) transitions below. Where do you think you would use them in a presentation?

  • Now let me close with...
  • To conclude...

  • In the second place...
  • Third, we have...
  • Finally...
  • Furthermore...

  • For example...

  • On the other hand...
  • Therefore...

  • As a result...
  • On the contrary...

  • With this in mind...

  • In closing...

  • Let’s look at it this way...
  • My first point is...
  • What are some other transitions you can think of?:

The other type of transition is the transition that occurs between slides, or when you advance a slide. It is best to use the same transition for each slide so it won’t distract your audience unnecessarily. Remember, you want them to be watching you, not your slide doing cartwheels in the background.

Creating Transitions Between Slides

  1. Left-click on Transition from the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Left-click on the More button in the Transition to This Slide window.
  3. Select the appropriate transition (fade, push, cover, wipe).
  4. Be sure that the box next to On Mouse Click is selected.
  5. Left-click Apply to All.

Always set your transition to advance (go to the next slide) when you click on the mouse. This way, you can advance the slide when you are ready. Using a timer can create unnecessary stress for young presenters.

Think It Through!

Let’s put what you have learned into practice! Using the slides on page 10, create a draft of your presentation. Make more copies of the page if you need more space.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Finally, you have finished all of the slides, edited each one, had somebody else proof them, and practiced and practiced until you’re blue in the face. It’s time. Time to get up and give that presentation you’ve been working so hard on. Don’t get this far to let the technology scare you. In some places, you may have to set up your own equipment, and in other places it may be provided for you. Either way, you should be able to handle the situation confidently. So, when you get ready to present, you need to have the following: a laptop, a projector, and a backup plan.

  • What is my backup plan?:

Hooking up a laptop and projector

  1. Set up your laptop, but don’t turn it on. (Plug the mouse in, plug the power cord into the computer and into the electrical outlet.)
  2. Take the VGA cable (the cable with the blue ends) and connect one end to the VGA port on the laptop and one end to the VGA port on the projector.
  3. Connect the power cable from the projector to the electrical outlet.
  4. Turn the projector on. Now turn the laptop on.

Bringing your presentation up into show mode

  1. Left-click Slide Show from the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Left-click From Beginning (or simply press the F5 key on your keyboard).

Opening your presentation from a USB jump drive

  1. Insert the USB jump drive into the USB port on the computer. Wait at least 15–30 seconds for
the computer to recognize the jump drive.

  2. Double left-click the Computer icon from the desktop.

  3. In the Computer window, locate the jump drive (usually assigned to the letter E) and double left-click.
  4. Locate your PowerPoint file and double left-click on it.
  5. Left-click Slide Show/From Beginning.

What if I want to use an iPad or tablet?

Be sure to first clear it with your Extension agent or specialist. You are responsible for bringing the appropriate cables to connect the device to the projector.

Piece of Cake

Ok, here is the list you’ve been waiting for: The top 10 secret habits of highly effective presenters. There are certain “bad habits” that everybody has when they start presenting with PowerPoint. We are going to expose those bad habits and replace them with good habits. The good habits will help you ensure your presentation is the very best it can possibly be.

  1. Make sure that all of your information is accurate and current.
  2. Spellcheck your presentation and make sure that somebody else proofs it, as well.
  3. Make sure that your text and graphics are visible (can be seen clearly).

  4. Avoid using really bright colors and red. Red should only be used in very small amounts to draw the audience’s attention.
  5. Never exceed seven lines of text on a slide. Remember: If it doesn’t fit on the palm of your hand, you don’t need it on the slide.
  6. The slide doesn’t care if you talk to it or not. The audience does! Do not talk to the computer.
  7. Look up, look out! Find two to three people in the audience and make eye contact with those individuals.
  8. Start and end on time. Don’t go over your allotted time limit.

  9. Practice, practice, practice. Arrive at the room at least 15 minutes early to make sure your equipment is working and ready to go.
  10. Always have a backup plan. It might be handouts or transparencies, but always have a plan B. You are the reason people have come to hear about the topic—you are the expert! Be ready to present even if your PowerPoint doesn’t cooperate.


DiResta, D. (2009). Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizazz. Worcester, MA. Chandler House Press.

Publication 2888 (POD-08-19)

By Mariah Smith Morgan, PhD, Assistant Extension Professor, Extension Center for Technology Outreach.

Copyright 2019 by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved. This publication may be copied and distributed without alteration for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Produced by Agricultural Communications.

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity institution. Discrimination in university employment, programs, or activities based on race, color, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, or any other status protected by applicable law is prohibited. Questions about equal opportunity programs or compliance should be directed to the Office of Compliance and Integrity, 56 Morgan Avenue, P.O. 6044, Mississippi State, MS 39762, (662) 325-5839.

Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. GARY B. JACKSON, Director

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