Making slide decks and giving presentations are critical components of modern work. In fact, they’ve become so important that millennials use presentation software more often than they write anything long-form. However, popular perception is that slide decks are frequently boring and take too long to get their message across. Here’s a few tips on how to make your presentations more engaging.
Less Information Per Slide
This happens to everyone: The speaker arrives at a slide with eight bullet points and proceeds to go in-depth into each one. You start getting distracted and impatient, wishing they would just move on.
The point of a slide deck is to enhance your speech, not the opposite way around. Focus on what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, using text on slides to guide your audience through a more complex presentational structure.
Richard E. Mayer, a professor at UCSB, suggested an extreme opposite direction for presentation building, using hundreds of concise slides, each of which has a few words or important picture. This style isn’t all-purpose, but when giving a presentation to an external audience like a public lecture or webinar, it can be useful to punctuate what you’re trying to say. Steve Jobs was a big fan of this style and frequently used it in his keynotes.
Don’t Write What You’re Reading
There’s no faster way for your audience to get bored of your presentation than for you to read directly off your slides. Humans can read faster than a presenter can talk, so by the time you’re on your second sentence, your coworkers have finished processing the information and are thinking about what to do for lunch.
Slides are best used for illustrations or graphs that act as an accompaniment to what you’re talking about. If the content of your speech is data-heavy, encapsulating it visually allows the audience to better understand. Using broad outlines of your talking points can also be helpful as it aids the logical progression of your presentation.
Printouts, either of your slides or of bullet points of your speech, are very helpful as well, but former dot-com executive Seth Godin recommends handing them out at the end of your presentation so your audience won’t get distracted reading them.
Engage Your Audience
Even if you’re presenting to colleagues in your organization, keeping your audience engaged is a critical part of getting your point across.
It can be helpful to periodically ask questions of your audience members or otherwise let them contribute. Doing so helps them feel like your presentation takes them into account and you’re not just making them listen to you for however long you’ll take. Allowing brief times for questions at multiple points in your presentation, and not just at the end, can also grant more clarity to your points.
In the right context, humor can be a valuable tool to not only keep your audience paying attention but to help your lesson hit home. Recently, the ZL marketing team created educational presentations on ZLUA’s various modules. I interspersed occasional jokes into the explanations of how ZLUA’s architecture enabled organizations to meet compliance regulations, which energized the rest of the group and made the presentation – and thus, the facts – more memorable.
Whether it’s an individual presenting the same slide decks over and over or a company not looking to resolve its data silo issues because it’s “how they always did it”, sticking to the same methods without analyzing and improving them is a fast way to stagnate. Much like how new privacy regulations demand a better solution for data governance, modern work culture demands a better presentation method. Slide decks are becoming increasingly critical in the workplace, and developing a personal style that works for you and keeps your audience engaged is a great way to make your voice heard.