By far, presentations are one of the most powerful assets that you have in your proverbial content marketing toolbox for a number of compelling reasons. For starters, they’re an incredibly efficient way to play to the strengths of visual communication – taking data and elevating it beyond a series of numbers and presenting it in a way that is compelling, captivating and hard to ignore.
Additionally, presentations are inherently engaging – the format itself breaks people out of the passive habits they’ve formed while trying to wade through countless blog posts and takes control of their attention almost immediately.
Yet at the same time, one study revealed that about 30 million (!) presentations are created on a daily basis. This means that while the format itself is popular, you’re essentially running into another version of a common problem: once you have someone’s attention you’ve got it in a gripping way, but actually getting their attention can often be a lot easier said than done.
As a result, absolutely anything you can do to differentiate yourself from your competition is a step worth taking. In an era where the likelihood that a lot of other people are probably using similar templates and elements to what you are planning on doing, you need to train yourself to not just think outside the box – you need to live there.
With that in mind, there are a number of effective presentation techniques that you’re probably not using that are more than worth exploring.
Engage as Many Senses as Possible
Again, presentations as a format are inherently compelling – but if you ultimately do little more than take that 1,000 word blog post and break it up into a series of smaller slides with little changes, you’re essentially right back where you started.
Because of this, you need to take full advantage of any opportunity you have to engage as many senses as possible throughout the course of your presentation. Music can be a great way to do this – something that far too few people tend to experiment with.
In an interview with The Guardian, expert Dean Burnett talked about how music can be a great way to both stimulate your audience and set a particular mood or tone at the exact same time. This is largely because music provides critical non-invasive noise that can help generate pleasurable feelings, essentially keeping someone’s unconscious attention at bay and reducing the possibility that they can get distracted.
It’s a great way to keep people focused on what your presentation is actually trying to tell them, making it a step worth taking more often than not.
“Visuals” Do Not Begin and End With Stock Photos
Another one of the most important things for you to understand when putting together your next presentation comes down to the idea that visuals are about more than just stock photos that you find on the Internet.
Yes, content tends to perform better when larger ideas are paired with relevant images. Yes, presentation slides that contain a few short bullet points and an image are incredibly common. But when you consider that just 7.6% of marketers who responded to a survey said that stock photos were the type of visual content that had the most impact across their campaigns in 2016, you realize that you’re looking at just one small part of a much larger story.
Far too often, presentation designers tend to fall into this pattern – one that ends up boring both themselves and their audience. Because of this, you need to use presentation design tool like Visme (which in transparency I founded) to break that pattern in a way that keeps your content fresh and keeps your viewers on their toes at the exact same time.
In the same study referenced above, 41.5% of marketers said that original graphics like Infographics and illustrations tended to perform the best in their marketing efforts. 25.7% of marketers said that charts, graphs and other types of images that visualized data lead to the highest levels of engagement across the board. Even memes received a lot of love in the survey – something that most people would have said had no place in such a professional document even ten years ago.
For the absolute best results, you need to be using a combination of all of these techniques and more to keep people constantly engaged. Think of the point that you’re trying to make on any particular slide and then choose the visual that helps cement that point in the minds of your viewer. Sometimes that may be a perfect stock photo – other times it’ll be an Infographic.
But don’t choose one or the other just because statistics tell you it’s a popular type of visual element right now. Choose it because the point you’re trying to make demands that you do so. Consider your audience and what they want, compare it against your intent and what you need and then make the call.
Don’t start with a stock image and try to work your way back to a presentation. That’s a recipe for disaster.
It’s About Thinking Differently
In the end, the recurring theme throughout all of these effective presentation techniques comes down to a need to think differently. Never assume that your message alone has the strength to carry someone through from one end of your presentation to another. While that message may be objectively important, how that message is received must be given equal weight if you’re going to guarantee the type of impact you need.
While it’s true that the major elements of presentation design are unflinching, it’s also true that rules are made to be broken – provided that you do so with some larger purpose in mind. Never be worried that your presentation is starting to look “too dissimilar” to what you or your audience may be used to. More often than not, this just means that you’re on the right track.
To read more about the many different effective presentation techniques you’re not using, feel free to check out this blog post put together by my team at Visme titled “20 Creative Presentation Ideas.”
About the Author:
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.