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
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. Not only does this make it easier to design visually compelling slides, but it helps keep the audience focused on your delivery instead of reading ahead and then tuning out until you finish. That matters more than you might think, because if you give them a reason to slip away, it might be a while before they come back. And once they do, there’s no guarantee that they can bring their focus back to your content.
Remember that an online audience has a million distractions at their fingertips: emails and Teams messages popping up, a little online shopping, a quick scroll through Instagram. When you are presenting online, you should almost assume that you will lose their attention, and then build your presentation with that challenge in mind.
If you’re unsure about how to create attention-grabbing slides, check out some of our other blogs on presentation design tips, like 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 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.
Build in interaction
Finally, one major difference between online and offline presentations is that some level of conversation or interaction tends to happen more naturally in person. So to encourage engagement and personal connection, try building in some preset moments of interaction with your audience.
This can vary based on your presentation, but you can look to Q&A sessions, interactive exercises, or any other content-appropriate activities that get your audience involved with your content.
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!
Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new tips for online presentations
Looking for more information about online presentation and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.
About the author
Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.