Preparing a Presentation for an Overhead Projector

By Elizabeth Mott

Overhead projectors make reliable presentation tools.
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You may consider overhead projectors to be yesterday's technology, but when you know you'll be making a presentation in a facility that relies on them, you can set up an effective set of projection materials that work just as well as digitally projected output. Instead of carrying your presentation on a thumb drive or CD, plan on toting along a box of transparencies, as well as a few extras tools to add depth to your talk.

Page Size

When you design a presentation for an overhead projector, you'll want to set up your working document to match the size of the medium on which you'll print it out. Regardless of whether you're targeting a networked color copier, laser or inkjet printer, the transparency film you buy comes in one size: 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Although you won't want to crowd each sheet of film with more content than you can project legibly, you also don't want to work on a document that doesn't match your output dimensions.

Page Coverage

Especially if you plan to attach your transparencies to cardboard frames for easier handling, leave generous margins around your content to enhance its effectiveness when you project it. Just as you'd set up PowerPoint slides following the 7x7 rule -- no more than seven lines of type, each with no more than seven words -- add type sparingly to each page you prepare for overhead projection. Avoid simply summarizing your talk in a series of unedited bullet-point pages that add nothing to your message.

Blanks and Writing Tools

Because overhead transparencies accept hand-written annotations in grease pencil, you can plan ahead for those portions of your talk in which you ask your audience for comments. Adding blank sheets of film to your stack of printouts enables you to ask questions and record the replies. If you bring extra blanks with you, you can accommodate long sets of suggestions without resorting to too-small handwriting to write down all the input. Bring spare grease pencils so you don't have to stop if your point wears down, as well as a paper towel to use as an eraser.

Paper Copies

To give yourself a convenient reference to what you're projecting, print your entire set of overheads once on transparency film and again on plain bond paper. If you store your overheads in a box, you can interleave the paper copies with the transparencies. When you want to check what you're about to project, or refer back to a previous transparency, you can look at your paper printouts instead of fumbling through a stack of plastic sheets in a darkened room. The paper copies also help protect your transparencies from static cling.