In our first part we talked about that how in these times, with more of us working from home than ever, we finally found out which meetings aren’t necessary. And in those lucky cases in which you’ll be spared from them and have to send just an email instead, we suggested a few guidelines on how to email an effective presentation.
However, some meetings are unavoidable and honestly quite important to ensure the smooth run of business. So whether you have a team meeting for an internal purpose (reporting, planning, launching internal campaigns etc.) or host various marketing & sales activities (like webinars or courses), you’d have to be careful about a few things to really nail the presentation.
So in this part, we’ll cover 8 additional guidelines that we usually apply in our own presentations as well as in our client projects when the presentation will be delivered via an online platform.
If in the first part, we said that you should think of your presentation more as a slideument (a cross between a slide deck and a document), now you should think yours more like a webinar presentation.
1. Keep slides simple & visual
This is pretty much the golden rule whenever designing presentations, regardless of their purpose. By now, everyone knows that slides with lots of text are confusing, hard to read and can disengage the audience. And the risk of disengaging is even bigger in an online presentation, where people have a lot more distractions around.
Limit the content as much as possible and use your slides as brief reminders of the topic. Don’t over clutter them. Ideally, you should just use a simple headline and three or four bullet points to support the key takeaways.
You know the saying with a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Use thoughtful visuals that enhance your slide content to design slides that truly “speak” without many words.
Another reason why you should keep your slides simple and visual is because you don’t know which device the audience will be using to view your presentation. So you should plan ahead and make sure your slides work on smaller screens as well
That means not a lot of content, not a lot of super detailed graphics or animations.
2. Space out content
In a live presentation, you can probably get away with using fewer slides because you have more room for audience engagement and they can follow explanations without visual support more easily.
However, in an online presentation, you’ll have to provide more context to the information you present. That means that you could include some supporting content for your key takeaways so you’ll be easier to follow. Adding it on slides (like a couple extra bullet points, text, or an extra chart/diagram) would also help in case of Internet connectivity issues to make sure your audience isn’t missing out.
But remember the “golden” rule described above, to keep your slides simple and visual.
So how do you keep slides simple and visual and provide enough information in the same time? It’s simple really: you just have to space out your content across more slides.
If you have a list that has 10 items, it’s ok to present it in 2 slides of 5 each. Or if you have 3 bullet points, and have enough supporting content for each bullet that you plan on going through, then it’s better to have a slide for each separate bullet.
In the end, you’re going through the same amount of content anyway, so better to go through in smaller pieces that are easier to understand by your audience.
In the end, the amount of content and text in your presentation should be less than if you emailed it and more than if you’d present in a live meeting.
3. Use simple build-up animations
For the same reasons of keeping it simple & visual, you should also seriously consider using the least amount of animations, transitions and effects possible.
We’ve talked about this before, but as a quick reminder: animations and transitions should only be used purposefully and not for the sake of bedazzling.
And this is especially important in an online presentation because you have to consider your audience’s Internet connection, that there might be delays in them seeing the animations and missing out (especially when screen sharing)
So we’d suggest to use just simple fade ins/outs and no transitions. Depending on the online platform you’re using for your presentation, you might need to use a PDF, in which case you can’t use animations at all.
In that case, you can even have more slides to cover the build-up of the animation. For example, if you’d have a slide with 4 items and you’d normally fade in each one separately, you can have a slide for each item progressively building, similar to this example.
4. Keep it engaging
As we said already, people tend to disengage faster in online presentations especially since they have more distractions lying around, both offline and online (family, pets, noisy neighbours, new emails, Instagram notifications and Youtube subscriptions).
So you’d want to avoid people looking at the same screen for more than a couple of minutes. You wouldn’t like it if you stared at a wall for 10 minutes straight either, right?
Make sure to include some kind of movement in your presentation every couple of minutes, whether transitioning to a new slide, or building up more content (images, text, graphics) on your current slide.
Spacing out your content helps here as well, so you can have plenty of movements planned throughout the entire presentation.
5. Plan and add slides for breaks
When you are planning your presentation and building the structure, make sure to cover every moment you’d normally have in a live meeting.
Try to visualize the flow of the meeting and as you’re going through it, see where would you need to add short breaks, or moments for Q&A or opportunities for audience engagement like a survey. Then add all these moments as actual slides and place them in the structure at the exact point of the meeting you’ll use them.
We’d normally suggest to have at least 3 such points (an initial overview, a mid-point Q&A, a final Q&A and summary), but you can have as many as you’d need. One every 30-40min should do, since most people tend to switch off after this amount.
Also, to make sure you don’t leave your audience in the dust of confusion, prepare a summary slide with key points covered after each section and stop to recap and take questions.
6. Do a dry run on your software of choice
Everybody hates it when they gather for an online meeting and the speaker is running into technical difficulties right before kicking things off. Avoid that as much as possible by practicing the presentation within the platform you aim to use.
Whether it’s Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, each platform has its own features to sharing screens, sharing materials, recording the meeting or audience management (muting/unmuting people for example). Make sure you familiarize yourself with the platform so you won’t waste valuable time in the beginning of the meeting trying to figure things out.
7. Make sure you’re visible as well
Speaking of online features, we’d suggest to go for a platform where you can both share your screen and your camera. There are few things as convincing to other people as the our own faces.
Eye contact is just as important in an online presentation as it is in a live meeting — it can make your speech more memorable and improve the retention of information you’re presenting by the audience
By making yourself visible in the presentation as well, you help humanize the information delivery with the help of non-verbal signals like body language and facial expressions. That can make an enormous difference when it comes to how your audience remembers the meeting.
8. Keep it on a schedule – end on time
While this also applies to live meetings and presentations, finishing on time plays even greater importance in a web presentation where it’s easy for people to disengage and tune out.
Make it very clear in the beginning how long it will take and when that time is up, deliver your closing and take any last minute questions or comments. If they still have more questions or want more information, tell them they can reach out to you later.
But respect everyone else’s time and let them go. Thank them for their time and after you wrap up the meeting, make sure to send them the presentation materials and meeting recording, if you did it. This can also be a great way to also remind them of the next steps mentioned in the meeting.
An online presentation will go better the more the audience trusts the speaker to be efficient, thoughtful and respectful of their time. So do as much as you can on your side to prepare the deck and by following these guides, you should be well on your way to nail your next online presentation.
What other tips have you used for efficient online presentations?
Let us know in the comments 👇