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Just like you, we’ve been stuck inside for a few weeks, trying to balance staying productive and binge watching show after show. But just because most people are working from home doesn’t mean that businesses aren’t still working. So here are some presentation design tips on how to give an online presentation that will keep their eyes on your screen and off of the TV.

What’s different about presenting digitally?

A great online presentation isn’t the same as the one you’d give in person. Not only is the energy of the room (or screen) different, but you’ve got additional challenges to deal with.

Instead of being together in a room with all the attention on you, now your audience is everywhere. Not only can they not see your body language and physical presence, but they are dealing with a whole set of distractions, from stress to interrupting family members and pets to technological challenges.

So to craft a great digital presentation, you have to work even harder to keep your audience engaged. Here’s how you can do it.

Set everything up ahead of time

This may sound basic, but too many people just plan to present from a desk or a kitchen table. Even worse, they go into the presentation without having tested everything ahead of time, which too often leads to technological snags. Before your attendees join the meeting, you should:

  • Test your internet connection to ensure the signal is strong where you are presenting from

  • Practice with the platform and learn about any interactive features it has that could improve your presentation. For example, did you know in the video settings for Zoom there’s a beauty filter.

  • Ask someone to join before you begin to make sure the audio is clear

  • If possible, present from somewhere with a background that won’t be distracting to viewers. You can also try a customized teleconferencing background like these for the platform Zoom from Canva.

  • Depending on the nature of the presentation, you may want to turn off video of you while you present, so the screen doesn’t jump back and forth between you and your slides

Think visually

Since people are viewing remotely, an engaging and highly visual presentation is one of the best ways to keep them focused on your content – a list of bullet points isn’t enough to keep their focus on what’s on screen.

Avoid text-heavy slides and speak to information rather than just showing it. This also makes it easier to design visually compelling slides. Additionally, slides with too much information can lead viewers to focus their attention on reading, not on you.

If you’re unsure about how to create attention-grabbing slides, check out some of our other blogs on presentation design tips, like these and these.

Set the pace

With a screen separating everyone in the room, it’s more important than ever that you both maintain a good pace during your presentation and also build in breaks. You should strive to come across as high-energy and engaging, but even so you should build in brief breaks for interaction. The longer they sit still, the more like their attention will wander. This also means that it may be necessary to shorten your presentation. Think hard about every word and image, and edit out anything that’s not absolutely essential.

One way to keep the energy moving is to speak naturally, not read off the slides or from a script. So while you will want to speak to the information on each slide, you can’t just read them back to viewers. It’s helpful to write a script ahead of time, but don’t simply recite it.

You can also change the pace that you move through information. While a traditional face-to-face presentation might allow you to linger on a slide and speak to your audience, a digital one will benefit from more movement, so try to spend about :45 seconds on each slide. This may be daunting as it creates a larger presentation, but the timing will work out the same, and your viewers will stay with you longer.

And finally, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Practice, practice, practice. Run through your PowerPoint on your own. Test it out on a family member or a colleague online (or even a pet if that’s all you have around). The more familiar you are with the material you are presenting, the more successful it will be.

The keys to a great PowerPoint presentation design

While this may seem like a lot of information, these presentation design tips are both simple and easy to apply. Before you give your next online presentation, just remember:

  • Knowing the software you will use helps you get more out of your time and helps prevent energy-sapping technology errors

  • Energy and enthusiasm will do more to help when presenting online than almost anything on a slide; if you’re excited about your information, your audience will be too

  • Keep the content visual –nothing makes people’s attention wander faster than a wall of text

We hope these expert presentation design tips will help you make the most of your next online presentation. And if you’re still unsure or are looking for some additional guidance, be sure to check our other PowerPoint design blogs!

Updated: Apr 19

We’re on record as believing that simplicity is beautiful. Some of the most common PowerPoint mistakes include burying great ideas beneath layers of extraneous information, adding unnecessary clutter, and obfuscating design choices. But not all concepts can be communicated with a few bullet points. You might have a wide breadth of information to convey, a complex set of elements to animate, or are simply trying to refine someone else’s overly-ambitious slides. No matter the design challenge in front of you, these PowerPoint formatting tips from our expert presentation designers will help you tame even the wildest of slides:

To group or not to group?

We’ve all been there. You just spent minutes (hours?) laying each image or shape into pixel perfect precision, only to have the whole thing fall apart when you make a new change. Luckily, the “grouping” feature makes this one of the easiest PowerPoint formatting tips to use. Once you’ve arranged the shapes to the desired position, you can group them together, which allows you to maintain the overall shape when scaling up multiple items.

But there’s one caveat: if you need to animate individual elements of the graphic, you’ll need to ungroup those before adding the animation. For this reason, we find grouping to be especially useful during the building phase. If you are not planning to add custom animations, you can simply leave your graphics grouped. Easy as pie!

Make use of the Selection pane

The Selection pane is like a life preserver: rarely used, but essential when needed. In certain cases, you may be working with complex slides featuring lots of graphic elements and/or groups, where modifying elements toward the bottom of the pack becomes prohibitively difficult. This is where the Selection pane proves itself as one of our most powerful PowerPoint formatting tips. Much like layers in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, this tool lets you turn the visibility of objects on and off, reshuffle the order in which they are stacked on the slide, and select objects with surgical precision that would otherwise be buried behind other graphics. It may take a little getting used to, but once you do, this PowerPoint formatting tip will have you moving graphics around like a pro.

Separate to simplify

If you have the luxury of building a complex slide on your own, rather than having it handed over to you, it can often be best to assemble it in stages. For one, you can build your graphic across multiple slides to get each part just right, then copy and paste the groups (see, we told you those would come in handy) onto the final slide. Or if you prefer, you can set up the graphic on individual slides and animate it so that it comes to life across multiple slides. This can also be a handy trick for isolating stages of animation across multiple slides, either to leave separate or to collapse into a single sequence.

To begin, start at the end

Similar to the last PowerPoint formatting tip, it can often be helpful to build complex animations by spreading out the graphic and working backwards. This is particularly effective for complex builds. Simply start by building the end state, or final graphic, then gradually duplicate that into new layers and subtract pieces until you get to the start. This way you always know what the final outcome will look like, so you won’t be stuck scratching your head and wondering why it doesn’t look the way it should.

Hopefully, these expert PowerPoint formatting tips will help you avoid time-consuming mistakes and allow you to tackle your biggest PowerPoint challenges. But beyond that, we think they can help you to become more efficient and effective when designing even simple slides. Because in PowerPoint as in life, there are no monsters, only misunderstandings.

Updated: Apr 19

Even if you’re not experienced in the field of presentation design, chances are you have an opinion about PowerPoint. And, like most people, you probably either love it or hate it.

This contentious and oft maligned program has been a source of debate for many years. Some see it as clunky and difficult to use. Others even suggest that it is directly responsible for the decline in the quality of communications in our culture at large, and that it’s the source of endless time wasting and unproductive work environments.

But as a presentation design & storytelling agency, we beg to differ.

PowerPoint is a tool that, when used effectively, can greatly improve comprehension and retention of information following a presentation. And achieving that isn’t some magical feat or complex task that’s beyond the grasp of the average user. It simply takes using good design principles, and understanding what goes into an effective presentation.

Our presentation designers note that one of the biggest misconceptions about PowerPoint is that creating a presentation is simply a matter of dropping information onto a slide. This stems from the fact that PowerPoint is actually very simple to use. This leads users to crowd single slides with as much information as they can, often leading to complex topics being made even more difficult to understand. The contradiction is clear: PowerPoint is both too simple and too complex.

But the value of PowerPoint shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. Like many other digital tools, it’s had a democratizing effect on the sharing of information. It’s allowed any user the ability to create and share information, without any design background or training, and brought a more accessible way to share to millions of businesses. And like any tool, with time and education it can be used to tell rich, complex stories in an easily understandable way.

One response to PowerPoint has been to abandon presentations altogether, in favor or long-from memos. When Amazon banned PowerPoint from being used in executive meetings, the result was that “instead of reading bullet points on a PowerPoint slide, everyone sits silently for about 30 minutes to read a "’six-page memo that's narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns.’”

But longer isn’t always better. And with a considered and well-crafted presentation, you may find that your employees will actually retain more information than they would scanning a large six-page memo.

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