goranmx / Pixabay

You have about 60-seconds from the start of a presentation to catch an audience’s attention and prove your credibility, before losing the entire group. Nothing is worse than spending hours prepping, planning, and practicing for a presentation, only to find your audience disengaged just moments after you began.

In today’s world, humans only have about an eight-second attention span. Just six years prior, that number was 12-seconds. People’s attention spans are decreasing by the year, and if you are not keeping your audience engaged, they will look elsewhere – whether that is down at their phone, or worse, towards a competitor with a more captivating message. If you have a prospective client, employee, or manager on the other end of the table, your presentation needs to be effortless for them. Being engaging only takes your presentation so far – you need to deliver unparalleled value to the listener.

Here are 6 ways to make a memorable presentation that people will want to pay attention to.

Images – they do say more

You know the proverb, and it’s true – high impact images are the backbone of a presentation design. You don’t need to be a design wizard to pick a beautiful image, but that image will immediately make your presentation look striking.

Illustrate the key parts of your presentation with high-resolution images that fill the whole slide. Yes, the whole slide. You will need to find an image that is a close match to what you want to say.

Personally, I favor photography over artwork, simply because the artwork found on stock image websites is often overused and, much like clip art, will give your presentation a cheap look that you will want to avoid.

Here’s a simple example from a past presentation – the topic was website redesign and this slide started a section of consecutive iterations of a/b tests.

Images are visual aids that help jolt your memory. The unexpected benefits of using images this way is that they give a visual cue if you lose your train of thought while presenting, the image can help get you back on track.

Keep the slides clean

Make a conscious decision to avoid clutter. Go out of your way to keep your slides clean. Less is more in that regard and the clean look will help keep your speech focused.

But what if you need more copy on the slide? Images can still help illustrate your point and make an otherwise boring slide pop. Compare the identical content in our standard corporate template with the slide we actually used in our webinar.

Ah – much better!

Icons are your friends in creating the look above. The styles that work well to make your slides look fresh in 2017 are flat design icons like the ones shown above and simple black & white icons like you would find them in a web app. See a snippet to the right that I took from another deck for an example of a simpler icon style.

My favorite source for flat icons is Iconfinder. Good sources for black and white icons are icon packs designed to work with web frameworks. Ionicons, Cascade and FontAwesome are good examples.

People read faster than you can present

Only having one word per slide will not cut it in certain situations, but overcrowding a slide with text can lead to distractions. If you absolutely have to include more text, try to use the bare minimum to get your point across. Disregard this advice at your own risk, or rather the risk of Death by PowerPoint. Check out this video by Don McMillan for a good laugh and to see what that’s all about.

If you keep too much text on your slides, nobody in the room will hear a word you say. They’ll all be busy reading. They’ll also be finished reading the content long before you have finished presenting it. Time they will happily use to do something else, like check email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and that will make engaging your audience that much harder.

Use large font

This says it all. If you follow the tips about the use of big images and minimal text, you will find yourself with a lot of white space on your slides.

The best way to make use of that space is to make the little text you have large enough so that everyone in the room will be able to easily read it – experts like Guy Kawasaki and Garr Reynolds recommend 30-point or larger.

Another aspect to pay attention to when designing your slides is the font type. It’s important to use a clean, modern font that is easy to read on your slides. Using fonts that are difficult to read will only distract the audience more. Canva even offers a tutorial for deciding which fonts to pair.

Get an eagle’s eye view

Once you have your content structured and slides laid out, take a moment to look at the big picture. Use the slide sorter view in PowerPoint to get an overview of the flow of your slide deck and ask yourself:

  • Does the structure still make sense to you?
  • Does every slide have a point?
  • Get someone else to review your presentation. Do they understand the structure? What do they remember after having seen the slides once?

Share the presentation

Once satisfied with both content and design there is still one thing left to do. Encourage the audience to share your presentation with these three useful tips:

  • Make sure you include your email address and Twitter handle in your slides
  • Prepare a final slide that summarizes the key takeaways – ideally in 140 characters for instant retweets
  • Put together a more text-heavy version of the slide deck and post it to your blog or a service like Slideshare

Keep these tips in mind during presentation design and you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your audience engaged. So, now that you know the steps to building that “wow” presentation, go and put some slides together and let’s discuss in the comments below.