In the pantheon of exciting life events, company meetings generally fall one or two notches above back surgery and just below spending your day at the DMV. And that was before the pandemic sucked whatever spirit remained from the in-person meeting, creating the painful, eye-irradiating snoozefests we call virtual meetings today.
When you’re leading one of these, we’re willing to wager that half of your audience is checked out, and those that aren’t, have their cameras turned off so that they can duck out to the kitchen for a much more exciting plate of nachos. This isn’t a knock on your abilities. You’re attempting the impossible — to resurrect a meeting that was dead on arrival. It’s like a reality show where you and your coworkers are the stars, and everyone is desperately trying to get the @#$% off of the island.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to keep your attendees’ attention without resorting to bribery, threats, or black magic. You just need to add a bit (a lot) of interactivity into your presentation. At Costello Creative Group, we’ve been designing decks that mix the best features of your preferred presentation software with the interactivity of a website. These can be used to drive home important points, provide quick access to needed information, and keep people from flatlining out of boredom. Let’s explore how rethinking your approach to decks can dramatically up your presentation game.
The Content of Presentation, The Structure of a Website
Everyone knows that presentation decks should be linear, moving viewers in a straight line from the first slide through to the last. That’s why they’re called decks. Like a deck of cards, presenters flip through the slides, in order, one at a time.
It turns out that everyone is wrong. Presentations are generally linear simply because it’s easier to design them that way. But non-linear presentations are more user-friendly. That’s because they allow presenters the flexibility to customize instruction in real-time. You can alter the order in which information is presented and spend more or less time on specific presentation sections based on your audience’s needs. This keeps presentations relevant and people engaged.
Consider a standard presentation, built with a beginning, middle, and end. It tells a linear story. If you skip over sections, the rest of the narrative may not make sense. Presenters are then locked into going through the entire deck, even if sections aren’t important to their viewers.
Designing a deck like a website adds additional navigational features. Related sections can be grouped into tabs. Blocks of information can be presented with clickable subheadings. Because the designer must share the narrative in a more piecemeal fashion, the process forces them to think more holistically.
With a non-linear presentation, leaders can skip entire tabs that aren’t relevant to the audience. They can drill down into concepts that need deeper explanations while skimming the surface of those the audience already understands. Designing interactively and non-linearly allows you to appeal to a wider audience with the same presentation while making the content more relevant and engaging.
You can also include interactivity like pop-up windows, animations, and external links to live websites. Designed properly, your presentation can feel like a customized extension of your website, providing new information as well as links to existing resources.
As a side benefit, non-linear presentation decks are more practical for prospects engaging with a self-guided presentation. Because they aren’t restricted to forward and backward, they can explore the presentation more like a website, accessing the information they’re interested in whatever order they prefer.
Anchor Your Presentation with Video Content
There’s a world of free videos on YouTube and other services waiting for you to call them into service. Video clips can help explain tricky concepts, provide needed context, or serve as an entertaining break.
Thematic movie scenes are a great way to engage and entertain your audience will providing them with another perspective. Explainer videos that align with your topic can supplement your descriptions. You can leverage videos as examples, counterpoints, and even guest speakers!
You might consider having relevant personalities record short video messages for inclusion in your presentation. Of course, your mellifluous voice is like cotton candy for the ears, but adding outside voices can help keep things interesting.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
Including interactive content is half the battle. The other half hinges on how you use it. And the third half doesn’t exist because that’s not how halves work.
Consider starting your meeting with an icebreaker — some sort of game or activity that gets people out of their shells and into a participatory mindset. It doesn’t need to last more than five or ten minutes. You want it just long enough to invigorate the group before diving into your content.
Add interactivity throughout your presentation, not just at the beginning and end. Not only does this help reinvigorate your audience periodically, but it lets you reinforce important information right after participants learned it. Think of interactivity as presentation coffee. What’s more effective for keeping people alert and focused, eight cups of coffee back to back in the morning, or one cup every hour for eight hours?
Also, avoid text-heavy slides. You might have a lot of information to pack into your presentation but resist the temptation to add it all at once. Too much textual information on the screen is hard to process and can cause your audience to glaze over. Instead, break content into smaller, more digestible chunks and present it as linear slides within the grander, non-linear structure.
That’s it! You’re now an interactive presentation master. It’s not black magic, but when you see your attendees turning on their cameras and engaging with your content, it might feel like it. So call on your inner-Russell Crowe, strap on your interactivity, and head into the arena to face your audience shouting, “Are you not edutained?!”