Potent Presentations – What are they and how can you create one?

By Anjie Raber, Doctoral candidate
School of Nursing

Hi. My name is Anjie Raber and I am a doctoral candidate here at OHSU School of Nursing. My dissertation work is focused on nursing education – specifically the interaction between faculty and students in the clinical setting. In addition to my doctoral work, I also work as a research associate and this is where I fell in love with evaluation (thank you Tanya!)

Both being a student and research associate at OHSU has afforded me many opportunities- one of which was to work on American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative with Stephanie Evergreen. As part of this initiative, I interviewed 12 evaluators from around the world who are expert presenters. Three reports were produced based on the data from these interviews that focused on Message, Design, and Delivery.

We’ve all been subject to a bad presentation right? Maybe it’s the presenter who is visibly nervous and stumbling over their words, or maybe it’s the presenter who is trying to tell you everything you need to know heart disease in 15 minutes by reading directly from the slides that are chock-a-block full of text. Either way- not a great experience as an audience member.

What 3 things can you do now to make your presentations better for both you and the audience?


Build your presentation around key points. These key points should be what you want your audience to walk away with. (Hint: This means you also need to know something about the audience you are speaking to.) Begin with your key points, then discuss them in more detail, and end the presentation with those same points to hit the message home.



Use one idea per slide (assuming you are using a visual support such as PowerPoint.) You will likely have to create more slides but the presentation shouldn’t focus on slide count. Instead the focus should be on slide quality and how that supports your message. Also, keep slide text to a minimum. Designing slides is about presenting the topic-not about you or your audience reading it from them.




Practice. Practice. Practice.  Even after 20 years of presenting, the experts I talked to still practice before every presentation. Some practiced out loud in front of colleagues, family, or friends while some said practiced it in their head. Pay close attention to areas where you stumble, and make changes so you don’t stumble when giving the presentation.  

These 3 tips will help you get started to create a better presentation for both you and your audience, but there is so much more -so don’t forget to check out the Potent Presentations Initiative website to get more great tips from experts on how to create a potent presentation next time you present.