As the pandemic sent us home and made us reliant on video conference to conduct business, we increased our dependence on presenting software like Microsoft’s powerpoint to communicate to employees, customers and potential customers. In the year to October 2020, we collectively spent 3.3 trillion minutes – or 6.3 million years – on Zoom calls, much of that time presenting slides with overfilled text, a mish-mash of off-brand graphics and corny stock images.
This astounding amount of time really drives home the time wasting and inefficiencies that plagued communications even when it was BAU. Most people’s powerpoint skills are underwhelming, and audience’s attention too overwhelmed (there is a whole field of academic study on how overloading our cognitive function impairs message effectiveness and is exacerbated by the distractions of online presentation).
When done right though, PowerPoint – and its equivalents – can be effective aids to delivering your key messages so the audience. So, what are some simple things you can do to make your presentations more effective and engaging, and reduce the chances of overwhelming cognitive load of your audience?
Stay on brand
Not only does it provide cohesion to the whole slide pack, it will reflect a level of professionalism by looking polished. Did you know that a characteristic of extraverted people is a care of aesthetics? Clear, crisp design not only helps your message shine but it also appeals to a whole lot of people in every industry.
It also means consistent markers can easily be used on each slide – saving you time on creating your presentation, and reducing the need for the audience to understand how the presentation relates to what your saying.
These ‘markers’ could be using a different brand colour for different topics; placing a heading in the same position on each slide; or using similarly-designed infographics or numbers that help the audience understand the context quickly.
Lastly, even in brand colours, try not to use the standard powerpoint smart-art, charts, WordArt and infographics. Hire a designer to create templates for these elements so your presentations look professional and polished, not like a school project from 1996.
Don’t overcomplicate it
Extraneous cognitive load is when our brains are overwhelmed by processing multiple stimuli through the same sense (say bullet points on one slide, and a diagram on the next) or through competing senses (spoken word that is different to what is visually seen on the slide). This places demand on our working memory and interferes with our ability to retain, recall and learn from the information. While this may sound complicated, it actually has some really simple practical implications:
- Use bullet points rather than chunks of text
- Overlay descriptive text on diagrams – the close they are to each other, the better we are at processing it
- Match what you say to what is summarised on each slide
- If you’re presenting to an expert, simple is best; if you’re presenting to a novice (someone completely new to your product or service) research shows that animation appeals
- Always send your deck to the audience after presenting it – verbal information is transitory, if you want it to stick, write it down so it can be revisited.
Relevant and compelling
Have you ever been told that powerpoint is merely an aid to what you have to say and gone with a big impressive hero shot? Thumbs up for not writing an essay! But remember, for the image to be successful – it. Has. To. Be. Relevant.
Explain the picture straight up to maximise the audience listening to what you have to say, and follow-it up with a slide on what the audience needs to remember from it. Or better yet, place it on half a slide and use the other to place a simple list of three main messages to support it.
Each slide should stay on the screen for two to four minutes. Any shorter and people will feel like they got whiplash, and any longer the temptation to look at other stimuli will be too strong for even the most studious amongst us. Try to stick to this even for meetings longer than two hours – place planned breaks from screen sharing into the agenda to retain interest.
Include audience interaction
Want to check that people are listening? It’s hard to tell especially when presenting online but there are plenty of tools to bring the audience into the conversation!
Q&A and audience poll software such as Slido and Menti integrate into PowerPoint so people can ask the presenter questions or answer polls in real-time. It’s great in large meetings or when your audience might be more comfortable staying anonymous. You can keep it super simple or, if you’re a seasoned presenter, make it extra engaging such as asking the audience to select the next topic they want to hear about and shift those slides around.
You can also pivot easily between powerpoint and virtual versions of whiteboards. Miro provides hundreds of whiteboarding templates to choose from and gives the opportunity for everyone to input their own comments on a shared screen.
Death by powerpoint is a common complaint that has been around for decades, yet most companies still use it every day. The power in powerpoint really can be simple if you understand how to optimise it to deliver messages that connect to your audience.
Here at Mint, we have powerpoint experts in presentation coaching, messaging, brand and design. From holistic upskilling, to helping create templates that you can use over and over again. Get in touch for more insights into how to get an edge by creating slide templates that connect.
Email [email protected] to give your business a competitive edge!
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only. The information provided is based on the author’s knowledge and understanding at the time of writing. Mint Marketing Pty Ltd advises to use this information at your discretion, and Mint is not liable for any action taken from reading this information.