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African Nova Scotian Health Resource

Why Learn Presentation Skills?

Strong health advocacy has several goals

  • leave a lasting impression
  • persuade your audience
  • and ultimately sell your audience on your idea(s)

In addition to  public speaking skills, having good presentation skills is invaluable for health advocacy.

It's one thing to orally articulate important facts and data, however, more compicated information is often better understood with a visual aid.

Learn the best practices for presentation design and avoid common mistakes that even the pros can often fall into.

Kinds of Presentations

Presentation Guidelines

(this information has been adopted from the "Steps for Conducting Effective Presentations" PDF found below)



Examples: Functions set up by a professional organization such as a legislative luncheon or a board of health.

Size: 50 - 100 individuals

Physical Set-up: Usually a podium is present and often on an elevated stage.

Attire: Dress neatly and conservatively so as to not distract from the important information you are providing.

Audience: As these are professionals in an industry you can use more technical terminology, but be careful to understand the general positions of the persons involved. Just because someone is in a powerful managerial position for health does not necessairily mean they know every piece of medical jargon!

The Stakes: Formal professional settings can lead to making valuable connections to people in powerful positions. A presenter must practice often and carefully to get support for their cause.



Examples: Workshops, community focus groups, speaking at a school.

Size: 40 - 50 individuals

Physical Set-up: More relaxed than a formal presentation, chairs may be arranged in a semicircle around the speaker both centering attention on them and to promote a sense of being in a group.

Attire: Like the name implies, having semiformal attire will help balance between being a professional and being a person the audience can relate to. You want to appear well put together without appearing stiff and unapproachable, especially since you may want your audience to ask questions.

Audience: Avoid using heavy medical jargon (myocardial infarction should be replaced with "a heart attack") Because of the more relaxed setting, using tasteful but sparingly used humour, can ingratiate you to your audience and keep their interest.

The Stakes: You should prepare for this presentation as much as you would for a formal one. Although the impact may not be as widespread as impressing the head of a medical board, making a lasting impact on your immediate audience can have a positive ripple effect into the lives of their friends, family, and coworkers.



Examples: Monthly department meetings with coworkers, focus groups with young adults.

Size: Usually less than 25 individuals

Physical Set-Up: This may include a podium on a stage (as in formal presentations) or chairs turned to face you (as in semiformal presentations)

Attire: Although the setting is informal, having semiformal attire will project a level of professionalism that jeans and a t-shirt would not.

Audience: Avoid any jargon, terms, or acronyms that would require further explanation (unless they are absolutely necessary to your message). Because of the informal nature, adopting a conversational tone works best with humour and activities are carefully used to reach an information goal, even if it's simply to lighten the mood and garner the attention of your audience.

The Stakes: while arguably lower than the previous two examples, health information and advocacy is always important, so adequeately prepare and never wing a presentation, even if its informal.

Presentation Design

We give credit to the University of Maryland’s Project SHARE for the content of this slideshow which can be found here: It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Common Mistakes

  • Apologizing in advance

    • - You want your audience to trust you, so appearing confident is vital for this purpose

  • Not having a purpose

    • - It's not enough to provide information, we want this information to be actionable. Tell the audience something they can do with this information, even if that's simply to spread awareness!

  • Using the same presentation for a different audience

    • - You can always have some content cross-over between audiences. But try to change even the most similar of presentations depending on your audience. It may have the same topic, but altering how you present it or the key points you want to give are contingent on the kind of audience you have.

  • Too much information

    • - Only give the most important information possible. Keeping things minimal will make your presentation more impactful and easier to remember.


  • Reading every word in your visual

    • - One sure-fire way to breed resentment in your audience is to mechanically recite the words onscreen. Instead, create a small visual blurb that underscores your more detailed audible explanation.


  • Giving presentation without rehearsing

​​- Presenting is very much like a performance. You need to know what you're about to do in front of an audience and deliver the goods. Even the most accomplished musicians, actors, and artists do a rehearsal or two before stepping on stage, you should too!


  • Not starting and ending on time

- Time is a precious thing. Your audience has been kind enough to give you their's so ensure you by start and end on time. In addition to simple showing your audience respect, starting and ending on time shows a high level of professionalism.


  • Heavy sighs

    • Being an enthusiastic and calm presenter is key to getting your important message across. Sighing audibly can come across as a lack of enthusiasm or your nerves getting the better of you. Fight back against this tendency with some anxiety busting tips found on the public speaking page.