Part 1: The Basics Of Creating Better Presentations

 By Ashley Eleveld, Project Coordinator, Simmons Creative

While the digital age has given us many great tools to create presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote), add great features to presentations (PiktoChart, 1001 Free Fonts, iStockPhoto), and to share presentations (SlideShare, Speaker Deck), it has also created unique challenges for presenters. Sally Hogshead notes how humans’ attention spans have diminished from 20-minutes 100 years ago to nine seconds (the same as a goldfish) today. We run the risk of our audience tuning out our presentations in seconds. Our three part blog series, “Creating Better Presentations” offers tips and tricks for the three crucial areas of creating and delivering a compelling presentation: content, design and presentation. 

Part I: Content

Studies show 40-65% of humans are visual learners while 25-30% are auditory learners. Presentations offer the perfect mix of both visual and auditory experiences for audiences of all kinds to learn from. That is – if you can keep their attention. Dr. Susan Weinschenk, also known as the Brain Lady, notes in her talk 5 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People, visual sensory always trumps auditory. That means audiences will spend more time trying to figure out what your slides are saying than listening to what your message is. Using these tips will ensure that your presentation project gets off to the right start. 

  • Plan, plan, plan and edit, edit, edit! Before you even think about your slides, knowing your topic inside and out is crucial. The biggest mistake many presenters make is relying on their slides to tell their stories instead of using them as a tool to supplement and strengthen their main points. Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Decks, Faster author Eugene Cheng follows a process of brainstorming, outlining, structuring, storyboarding his slides, and then designing the slides. The same process can be put to use to first build your message/speech and then your slides.
  • Tell a story. Every presentation should answer the journalistic W’s of who, what, when, where and why, but how you present this information to the audience is entirely up to you. Our suggestion? Get creative! Whether you use the Hook, Line and Sinker method or a more traditional three-act format that includes Setting, Conflict and Climax, the structure of your presentation need not be obvious to the audience, but should intrigue and keep them engaged. Your slides should act as teasers, not giving the story away but keeping the audience wondering, “What’s next?” 
  • Less is more. Silicon Valley luminary Guy Kawasaki (who gives over 50 keynote speeches every year) created the 10-20-30 Rule for pitches: a presentation should have no more than 10 slides that can be presented in 20 minutes with font not smaller than 30 points throughout. While this method is particularly effective for business proposals, the idea that slides should be short and sweet resonates with the experts. Ever wonder why TED Talks are under 20 minutes? Audiences enjoy and retain more information from presentations under the 20-minute mark. If you need more than 20 minutes, give the audience a short break or do an activity to reengage them. 
  • Mix it up. Use pictures to communicate your message whenever possible. Pictures are more interesting than words, invoke more emotion, and are less likely to pull your audience’s attention away from your spoken words. The internet has many resources for photos and tools to create interesting infographics for your presentation (more on this in “Part II: Design”). Use these tools to break up the content of your slides to create a visual-emotional-educational experience for audiences.

Now that you have the basics of presentation design and delivery in mind, we can start thinking about how your presentation should look in Part 2: Design. 

Mary Meeker 2015: The Long and The Short

Internet forecasting expert Mary Meeker delivered her 2015 Internet Trends report a few weeks ago. This presentation is an annual event for anyone who needs to know where the technology sector is growing and slowing worldwide. Not surprisingly, emerging markets and video are hot, while internet growth and smartphone use are cooling off... slightly.