I have attended numerous conferences in my career as, I am sure, have many of you. The day of, we arrive at the registration desk, often tucked into the windowless bowels of the hotel or conference center, and then proceed to the conference room knowing we will be sandwiched at table rounds or squeezed in the oft favored classroom-style setup. We network through the room, looking for a seat to meet our needs, one that allows us to slip quietly out the back or one up front for those with failing eyesight to better read the screen. We roll the dice when we walk in and settle into our seats hoping the presenter will be the engaging and lively type, and not the tried-and-true subject matter expert in a line-by-line PowerPoint format.
Unfortunately, for me, my most recent conference was the latter, which got me to thinking that in today’s age of data, graphics, video, social media and interactive platforms, we should no longer be rolling the dice. Presenters and communicators should no longer use a text-heavy presentation style or staid backdrop. With multiple tools at our fingertips, we should all be able to create presentations that inform as well as engage the audience and not one that lulls attendees into a light slumber.
- Set Aside Enough Time – Yes, you will need to take some extra time to develop a PowerPoint to engage your audience better. It takes time to create graphics or find .gifs or videos or images to support your presentation.
- Collaborate – You know your development skills best. Don’t be shy or ashamed if you don’t know the difference between a .jpg and a .gif. Without a doubt there are people in your office who have strong presentation creation skills. Seek them out, tell them what you are looking for and ask for their assistance. You will find creative types love to jump in and help and will often have great ideas to spruce up the deck.
- Infographics – These take time to develop, but are well worth the effort. Keep them clean, with white space so people don’t drown in the information. Online tools like Canva, Piktochart and Venngage are free and make it easy for people without graphic design experience to create visually appealing infographics.
- Data and Statistics – Can be very boring, but there are many creative ways to display data and statistics (see infographics above to get started). Don’t be afraid to search on the internet for best case examples and assimilate these styles into your presentation.
- Examples that Resonate – Similar to “know your audience,” identify ways in which your information is relative to your audience. Why should they care?
- Participatory Engagement – There are a number of great tools you can use to encourage audience participation. Take a poll of the room, question people about specific points you want to get across to keep them listening – and don’t forget to have small giveaways (gum, mints, piece of chocolate) for people who answer correctly.
- Video or Images – “A picture is worth a thousand words,” has never been more true. Instead of heavy text or too many bullet points, can you say it with a picture or in a short video? Speak to the image instead of too many words.
- Think Local – If you are presenting in a certain city, find images of that city that could be meaningful to the audience and incorporate them into your presentation, i.e., use them as a shaded background or research local history and see if there are ways to incorporate it into what you are saying.
- Wrapping up the Takeaway – What are two to three points you want your audience member to remember? Repeat them at the end and make it your final slide with your contact information.
Using any or all of these ideas will make your presentation more engaging and will provide a better conference experience for you and the audience.
Karyn Le Blanc is a senior vice president in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office and lead’s the firm’s infrastructure practice group.