Public Speaking Tips for School Counselors: Tools for Totally Awesome School Counselor Presentations - Chapter 2

Take your public speaking and school counseling presentations to the next level with a few simple tools!
Click here to read Chapter 1.
Welcome to the second chapter of the Public Speaking for School Counselors series. If you missed Chapter 1 – just click here to check out the tips from the first installation of this series to frame the content of this post. 3 out of 4 Americans fear public speaking (some more than spiders, heights, and even fear of death) and I know many school counselors share that fear. School counselors at all levels will be required to prepare and deliver presentations throughout the year to different audiences. From staff meetings and parent information sessions to board meetings sharing the success of your school counseling program or defending your jobs – developing and delivering strong presentations is an art form – but an art form that can be learned. Read on to learn a few simple and free tools to help take your presentation to the next level.

Fiery School Counselor Presentations: From Blah to Blazing

This post is designed to accompany a presentation from ASCA 2015 in Phoenix presented by Paul Smith, Stephanie Smith and I. Click the button below to head to the post containing the slides.

Aesthetics are important – don’t deliver ugly presentations.

One of the biggest things I get asked about regarding presentations is “how did you design the background and make the presentation easy to understand?” My first tip for developing strong presentations to help your public speaking skills is to spend time focusing on not only the content of your slides, but the design of your slides. This is a major area that gets neglected too frequently in education. Look at many other industries – how many companies develop ugly presentations to promote sales or to deliver to their board? Not many and if they do – they are not employed long. You can have slide content that is on-point and completely eye opening for your attendees, but if it is ugly or hard to digest – the impact is not nearly as good as it could be. Building effective and beautify presentations doesn’t require a degree in graphic design or expensive software. All it takes is knowing where to look and what to look for regarding graphics plus a few simple design rules.

Finding the right images

Please…please…PLEASE stop using PowerPoint and Google Slides templates to develop your presentations. Just like when you review a resume – you can tell when someone used the general MS Word resume template. The same thing applies for presentations. It is very easy to create your own “templates” and it provides a welcome relief from the bullet point hum-drum presentation.   My first tip is find a high quality background. My go-to source is for high quality (key point here) and free to use stock images. You will need to register for an account, but after that – you have access to over 388k stock images that you can use throughout your presentations. When searching for good background images – look for one with a higher resolution (image size) than smaller (I usually shoot for full HD 1920×1080 if developing wide screen and 1024×768 for 4:3 – see this link for more info). While you are looking for a high quality background – see the below section on design elements to keep in mind.   The second tip regarding images is to use .png files for any images you add to a slide. Most people will look to add some pizzazz or visual support to their slides with images that tie to the info on their slides. That is a great approach, but many times people add images that are pixelated, ugly, or surrounded by a giant square background. To avoid these problems – find a  larger image (again pixel size – I typically try to find images above 500×500 pixels for quality), search for images that come in the .png filetype instead of .jpg/.jpeg. The great thing about a PNG file is that it allows transparent backgrounds. This helps when adding a logo or image on your slides and you will only see that logo and not a black or white background. It creates a better “flow” and makes your slides look more professional. PowerPoint has a tool called “Remove background” that you can try to play with for any JPEG file you may have to make a similar look to a PNG. [Tweet “Friends don’t let friends give bad presentations. Getting tips today from @CounselingGeek. #scchat”]

Free Resource #1

My go-to resource for high quality, free stock images is Many people will look in general Google Image search, but I would avoid this as many of those images are copyrighted and while the odds of you running into any issues with that are small – try to avoid it when you can. provides a lot of user created stock images and nearly all of them are completely free to use.

“Visual imagery is a powerful mnemonic tool that helps learning and increases retention compared to, say, witnessing someone read words off a screen.


Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition)

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”

Steve Jobs

Founder and CEO, Apple

Break out of the PowerPoint Box.

Throughout the last decade – Microsoft PowerPoint has cornered the market on the presentation game. PowerPoint is a great tool and has lots of features to use. However, there is a new sheriff in town when I need to make a slideshow. I found that I needed a presentation tool that allowed me to easily create, access, edit and share presentations from multiple computers. I wanted to not have to worry about needing to download any YouTube video I wanted to show. I needed to be able to embed a copy of my presentations on my website or in an email to colleagues. Some of these actions, while possible in many cases, takes many steps and occasionally some advanced understanding of coding or design-work to actually make happen with PowerPoint.

The New Solution: Google Slides

Nearly all my presentations now are designed solely on Google Slides. Even if I use a PowerPoint file – I still upload those files to my Google Drive and make any edits via Slides. There are a few reasons that I have ditched PowerPoint.

1 – It is free and many districts are ditching Microsoft. My district has “gone Google” and it is a direction that a lot of districts or schools are headed. With the many tools available and at a much lower cost than licensing the same number of Microsoft licenses.

2 – Slides is accessible from any internet-connected device. Just like with Google Drive – Google Slides is only a login away from any where you may be in the world with an internet connection. What is nice about this is you are not tied to your device. You also don’t have to worry about formatting issues from not saving the correct files to take with you. You can leave your flash drive at home.

3 – Native YouTube embedding is simple and easy. Have you ever wanted to embed a video in a PowerPoint presentation? Ya – me too. It sucks. You have to pray that it works and download the video if it doesn’t work. With Slides – you just search for the video you want and it links directly to YouTube within the slide.

4 – You can embed, download and share the presentation with ease. Does someone still require a file in a .ppt format? You can still download the file in that format. You can download the presentation as a PDF, PNG and share the presentation with collaborators or your audience just like other Google Drive. Finally you can embed a fully functioning copy of your presentation on any website you have access to post on.

“Were these slides the visual support for a live oral presentation? If so, I sympathized with the audience. Since when can an audience read and listen to someone talk at the same time (even if they could actually see the 12-point text on the screen well enough to read it)? Were the slides used merely as a kind of document printed in PowerPoint? If so, I pitied both the author and the reader because PowerPoint is not a tool for document creation. Boxes of bullet points and logos do not make for a good handout or report.

Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition)

KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid – Keys for Quality Presentation Design

When you are in the actual design process of your presentation, I consistently think back to presentations that I have sat in as an audience member – both good and bad. If you look back – I am sure you can think about horrible and awesome presentations. Use these as inspiration. When I go to hear people speak – I come primed to get two pieces of information. First is the content of their presentation. Second is the delivery, design and strategies of the speaker.

A few major points to keep in mind when starting:

1 – Don’t stick to the pre-formatted templates. You can add a blank slide and different images and textboxes where ever you want. Just like with a resume – templates are all easily recognizable and boring. Jazz it up with your own layout.

2 – Limit the information on the slide to 2 – 3 key points. In presentation design – less is more. Your presentation is not meant to be a handout with every piece of information you want to give your audience (make another handout for that!). The worst presentation you can give is one where your audience can read everything you plan on saying. Limit the info on each slide to keywords, powerful images and 3 total points. Fill in the remainder of the information with your words.

3 – Pick colors like you would for your house or a car. You wouldn’t pick a black wall paint with lime green or pink accents for you living room right? Why would you do that for your presentation? Typically – a light background with darker text is going to be the easiest to read and design. When selecting a background – a texture or non-busy image is the best way to go.

4 – Fonts matter. Please do NOT use script fonts in a presentation —- ever. That said – readability is key. Both in font selection and size of the information on the slide. Depending on the room, audience members may be way in the back and reading really tiny text is frustrating. Think about your audience when designing your presentation.

Where else to look for inspiration:

There is a plethora of examples and tips available for presentation design out there on the web. Simply search for “Presentation Design Tips” or “Presentation Design Essentials”. You can also check out the image search for colors, layout, etc to use as inspiration.

Here are a few helpful links to get you started:

20 Best PowerPoint Designs for Inspiration

20 Great Examples of Presentation Design

25 of the Best PowerPoint Presentations

20 Best PowerPoint Designs

Embedding a Presentation

Embedding a Google Slides presentation on a website is pretty simple. The only main pre-reqs are having access to the back end of the site or access to the person that does. (I have found a coffee or treat every now and again with IT staff works wonders and I am always the first person to have things fixed!).

When you are ready to embed your presentation – simply go to the “File” menu at the top of the screen (not your browser File menu – the Google Drive/Slides File menu) and select “Publish to the web”. A pop up will appear with an option to link, which is great for sharing with audience members, and there is another tab to Embed. Select Embed and then setup your options correctly. You can select the size of the embed (sticking with Medium is typically safe) as well as whether it should auto-advance slides. I always select no for this option. Hit Publish and then you will see a box with the Embed Code in it. You don’t need to change any of it but you do need to copy it and paste it to the HTML (or Source) entry method on the page you want it to appear on. Save that page and wa-la. It should appear and any edits you make on the slides after publishing it will be live.

*Freebie tip – this is the same method you can use with adding YouTube pages to a website – you just need to grab the appropriate embed code from the Share menu underneath a YouTube video.


“If you need to put eight-point or ten-point fonts up there, it’s because you do not know your material. If you start reading your material because you do not know your material, the audience is very quickly going to think that you are a bozo. They are going to say to themselves ‘This bozo is reading his slides. I can read faster than this bozo can speak. I will just read ahead.”

Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition)

Friends don’t let friends give lame presentations.

Only you can prevent sucky school counselor presentations. By taking these tips and sharing them with your friends and colleagues – you can save your audience from an hour or more of boredom, texting and lack of retention. I hope you take some time to look around the inter-webs at all the other great tips for developing great presentations and soon – educators won’t have to sit through boring presentations any longer. Thanks for reading!

[Tweet “Making my presentations awesome with @CounselingGeek #schoolcounselors #scchat”]

Public Speaking Tips for School Counselors: Tools for Totally Awe…

time to read: 19 min

Get your Geek on with weekly updates straight to your inbox!

Enter your email below and jump on this bandwagon! Never miss a post. Please note that by subscribing - you are agreeing to our privacy policies and GDPR requirements.

EU GDPR Consent

Roll on little doggie - the next post will land smack dab in your inbox.