Creating Presentations for Town Meeting

These guidelines have been developed by the Town Meeting Members Association, Town staff, and the Moderator to help improve the quality and effectiveness of presentations at Town Meeting. Step-by-step directions for putting together your presentation can be downloaded (PDF).

Slides need to be able to be read from any location in the auditorium, including the back rows and balcony. LexMedia will likely fit the Battin Hall projection screen to the TV screen.

Slides that complement oral presentations need to be designed for viewing for three audiences:

  1. Town Meeting members and residents sitting in Battin Hall.
  2. LexMedia viewers either live or on replay.
  3. Those with vision problems and others.

Paper copies for the Information Table should be made available one week in advance of expected presentation. Additional details that may be too dense for the slide presentation can be included in written handouts

Special Note: Wi-Fi is available in Battin Hall. Presenters who provide their presentation to the Town Manager's office at least 36 hours in advance of Town Meeting will have their presentation added to the Town Meeting webpage. The presentation can then be viewed by Town Meeting Members in advance, and Town Meeting members with their own portable devices can bring or access presentations while in Battin Hall. This is the preferable approach for viewing presentations.

PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat are the preferred formats for presentations. In some cases, an electronic device is available for use to project documents that are in paper form. This is helpful in responding to questions that need to be visually displayed.

Individuals planning to make a presentation at Town Meeting should prepare the presentation in advance and contact the Town Manager's Office at 781-698-4543 prior to Town Meeting to make arrangements for it to be loaded onto the computer that will be used at Town Meeting.

Presentation must be in a PC-compatible format that can be viewed on the Town's Windows 7 and 10 laptop(s), which utilizes Microsoft Office 2013. The use of personal computers is not permitted.

Working with the Town Manager Office staff and Moderator is essential to achieving an effective presentation.

The presentation should be rehearsed prior to the Town Meeting. Make sure your oral presentation is enhanced by the slides and that the slides are advanced in phase with your oral presentation. You may choose to advance the slides yourself by remote clicker, but it is generally smoother to be advanced by the assigned Town staffperson if you make cueing arrangements beforehand. Presentations should meet the debate rule limitations. Ask the Town Moderator how much time will be allowed for your total presentation. Plan for your presentation to end in a bit less time than allotted because the actual presentation is likely to be longer than your rehearsed simulation. The Moderator's role is to enforce all time limits.


Presentation slides should meet the following guidelines, remembering that your specific information and message are key to the actual format whether it fits to the guidelines or not.

  • Message. Use key words to help audience focus on your message. The slides should use phrases and key words. Don't read slides. Cut paragraphs down to sentences, sentences into phrases and keywords
  • Slide orientation. Use consistent slide orientation "Horizontal" or "Landscape". Slides of existing documents will mostly be in a "Vertical" or "Portrait" mode. Slides that are documents in 12-point font will be difficult to read.
  • Preferred text styles include Arial, Verdana, and other readable sans-serif fonts. Times Roman and other serif fonts may be more difficult to read when projected.
  • Title text should be a minimum of 36-point font.
  • Bullet text or body text should be a minimum of 28-point font.
  • Background color should be white (preferred) or dark (paper copies should be on a white background).
  • Font color should be at the highest possible contrast from the background. A white background should have black text; a dark background (blue or black) should have white text.
  • Avoid hard-to-read color combinations such as red/green, brown/green, blue/black, blue/purple. Aim for high contrast between background and text (expect that several dozen Town Meeting members will be color challenged).
  • Limit the number of bullet points and text. Use no more than seven words per line or five lines per slide. You may wish to use two slides for a certain piece of information rather than one if there is a lot of information on that point.
  • Enhance readability. Don't crowd slides. Use normal case (not all caps) and punctuate sparingly.
  • Accessibility. Using Accessibility Checker will help assure slide Accessibility.
  • Limit animations, transitions, and builds. Use consistent transition between slides with targeted animation.
  • Graphs, charts, and maps should have clearly visible titles and limited information on each slide. Detailed graphs and charts should be available as handouts. Axis and text fonts should be large enough to read at the back row.
  • Town presentations should use the Town Master Template.

This page from the Town Budget cannot be read by people in the audience.


Use of Charts, Photos & Tables

Generally, a picture is worth a thousand words, especially if it is the right picture or chart. In choosing charts, bar and graph charts are easier to follow than pie charts, but the nature of your data should dictate your choice.

Photos you take can be helpful to Town Meeting members as they try to understand context. Scale the resolution of photos so that the size of your presentation is kept to a reasonable size. Graphs and tables should contain the least amount of data that still conveys the point you are attempting to make.

  • Bar Charts. Try to limit bars to 4 to 8
  • Line Charts. A simple line chart to demonstrate trends can include the use of "symbols" as an indicator over time.
  • Pie Charts. Try to limit the pie chart slices to 4 to 6 and contrast the most important slice either with color or by exploding the slice.
  • Graphics. Use high-quality graphics and media.
  • Photos/Images. Understand the legal use of images in presentation slides by checking copyright issues.
  • Tables. Best used for side-by-side comparisons of quantitative data. Make sure the font size is chosen to be read from the back row. Simpler is better. Understand when a lot of data needs to be on a single slide or if it can be placed on several tables without losing meaning and relationships.